Thursday, December 12, 2013
By JOCELYN NOVECK/The Associated Press
As far as Twitter messages go, it didn't seem extraordinary. "Another piece of good news today," tweeted the expectant mom, announcing to her online followers that she and her husband are awaiting a baby boy.
Marissa Mayer, the newly named CEO of Yahoo, tweeted that she was expecting, setting off a discussion of the effect of such news on other businesswomen, businesses and Mayer herself.
2012 Associated Press File
On Tuesday, former Google executive Marissa Mayer began her job as Yahoo's fifth CEO in as many years, not including two who served on an interim basis. Here are some biographical details on her:
NAME: Marissa Mayer
EDUCATION: Bachelor of science degree in symbolic systems and master of science degree in computer science from Stanford University, specializing in artificial intelligence for both. She received an honorary doctorate of engineering.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Started at Google Inc. in 1999 as its first female engineer and 20th employee overall. Most recently responsible for Google's mapping products, location services, Google Local, Street View and a slew of other products. Helped create Google's flagship search service and the well-known white-background home page the company is still known for.
BOARD SEATS: Walmart Stores Inc., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet.
-- The Associated Press
But this wasn't just any excited mom-to-be. This was 37-year-old Marissa Mayer, the newly named CEO of Yahoo – obviously a huge achievement for anyone, but especially for a woman in the male-dominated tech industry. And she was about six months pregnant, to boot.
Exciting news – especially for Mayer and her husband, of course – but did it mean something for the rest of us, too? Was it a watershed moment in the perennial debate over whether women can "have it all," with the pendulum swinging happily in the positive direction?
Or was it, as some claimed in the inevitable back-and-forth on Twitter, actually a development that would increase pressure on other working moms, who might not have nearly the resources that Mayer does, in terms of wealth, power, talent and flexibility on the job?
Or was it even sexist to raise the question at all? Would anyone be saying anything if the new Yahoo CEO were an expectant father? No, went a frequent online thread: No one would even pay attention to that.
What was clear was that Mayer's situation as a pregnant CEO of a Fortune 500 company is not only rare, but probably unique. She becomes only the 20th current female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, according to Catalyst, an organization that tracks women's advancement in the workplace. If it sounds like a lot, it's not; that's only 4 percent of Fortune 500 chiefs.
There is little or no research tracking whether any have been pregnant while in that job, but a look at the other current female Fortune 500 CEOs shows that the vast majority are well into their 50s.
Mayer, who left Google to take the new job, wasn't speaking - tied up with her first-day responsibilities Tuesday at Yahoo, she declined interview requests, including one from The Associated Press. But on Monday, she told Fortune magazine that the Yahoo board "showed their evolved thinking" by hiring a pregnant chief executive, and that she plans to take only a few weeks maternity leave - during which she would work throughout.
That raised a few eyebrows among some who suspected it might not be as easy as the first-time mom thinks.
"She will also, I am betting, not power through quite as single-mindedly on her maternity leave as she thinks she will," wrote Lisa Belkin on her Huffington Post blog.
Many speculated that, like other working moms, Mayer would find her attentions and energies divided well beyond maternity leave.
"Anyone can have it all," said Julie Marrs, a sales administrator in Conroe, Texas, "but maybe not be as successful at everything as one hopes." Marrs, a mother of two boys who works full time, said she has learned the hard way that something always gets sacrificed.
"There are times that I am so mentally drained when I get home from work that I definitely do not spend the time I should with my kids," she said in an email message. "Whether it be working on homework, reading books, playing a game or simply talking about their day. I try my best, but realize that to 'have it all,' something will be sacrificed.."
While most online chatter about Mayer was full of praise for both her and Yahoo and sometimes saying "You CAN have it all!," there were those who said Mayer was perhaps not the best example to prove such a thesis.
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