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It's Ridiculous That New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's Pregnancy Is An Issue

Wed, July 18, 2012 7:29pm EDT by Bonnie Fuller 9 Comments
Marissa Mayer Pregnant

I say hooray that Yahoo has chosen a highly qualified Internet mogul as their new leader. Why is the fact that she’s six months pregnant even a controversy today?

Here’s the real key fact: Marissa Mayer, 37, is one of the few individuals – woman or man – who can truly say they are responsible for the explosive growth of the Internet.

She is a proven leader, an innovator, and a top business executive who spent 10 years at Google where she was the company’s 20th employee. She is the perfect choice to be the new CEO of Yahoo. But when the announcement was made about her new position on July 16, there was a huge uproar because she’s… a woman who happens to be six months pregnant with her first child – a baby boy.

That state of Mayer’s pregnancy immediately ignited a heated debate about #1) whether it was wise of Yahoo to choose a pregnant woman to take charge of their enormous business – 700 million unique visitors go to Yahoo every month; #2) whether Mayer should take any pregnancy leave at all; and #3) whether Marissa was underestimating the effect that giving birth to a baby would have on her life and emotions, when she took this big new job.

Well, I say that it’s absurd that a highly qualified woman today could be disqualified from consideration for a job, just because she’s pregnant.

Would a male business leader be thrown out of consideration if his wife was expecting their first child? Of course not. But aren’t men just as emotionally involved with their children today as women? Couldn’t they be equally distracted by new fatherhood as a woman could be by new motherhood?

Then there’s this underlying assumption from naysayers that being pregnant is somehow a condition or a disease, and it certainly is NOT! It’s a natural part of life – it’s not a disability.

Would male candidates for the Yahoo position be exhaustively analyzed by doctors to ensure that they have no medical condition that might require that they miss out on a few weeks of work, before they were hired? Of course not! We don’t live in a 1984 world!

My point is that Marissa is a healthy 37-year-old woman who will have to slow down for a couple of weeks after she gives birth. Big deal. There could be unforeseen medical reasons that require a male CEO having to attend to his health for a few weeks too. Life is unpredictable for men and for women. But at least with a pregnancy, the physical after effects are very short lived.

The Yahoo board has clearly hired Marissa for her depth of experience and accomplishments in the digital world and they are looking at her ability to lead for the long haul, not the short term. That’s the smart and right thing to do.

So why would a few weeks of maternity leave make any difference in that big picture? It doesn’t!

“She is the perfect person for the job. She’s one of the people responsible for creating the Internet as we know it and she’s one of the few people who have managed a large scale Internet operation,” a source very close to the situation told me.

Marissa’s pregnancy made no difference at all to the enlightened Yahoo board, according to my inside source.

Michael Wolf, (the founding partner of Activate Strategy and the Yahoo board member who lead the CEO search) knew from the first minute of meeting with Marissa, that she was pregnant – she told him, and the Yahoo board knew too before they made their offer to her,” the insider explains.

Furthermore, Wolf felt that “if anything, Marissa’s pregnancy made her a better candidate for the CEO position,” says the source. “In general, there are a lot of important skills and traits that parents learn from having children.”

Music to my ears! How about yours?

Now back to the uproar. There are opinionators who insist that Mayer has no idea of how intensely emotionally attached she will become to her newborn. They argue that she doesn’t understand how hard it will be for her to leave her baby and to focus on her other baby – running her enormously demanding Yahoo business.

Well, I find those concerns REALLY insulting. As a mother of four who has worked non-stop through every one of my pregnancies and took very little pregnancy leave – including working from home for the first few weeks – I find this extremely condescending.

Women are certainly able to handle multiple responsibilities at once, and Marissa can love her baby to bits and STILL throw herself into her new position. She has proven herself to be a very responsible and capable person – she is NOT going to turn into a blubbering mess. It won’t be easy to handle both but it IS do-able.

And let’s face it – the woman can afford to have a night nurse to help her with the baby at night as well as a day nurse. She can have 24-hour coverage. She can breastfeed while conducting phone calls and meetings – it is very possible – AND she can afford to buy good catered takeout food or eat- in restaurants. She doesn’t have to go home and cook, do laundry and clean up.

No, not every working woman is earning a CEO salary… but SHE is. She will be lucky to enjoy all the bonding that cuddling and breastfeeding her baby brings without having to wash a dish or change a diaper.

That doesn’t mean that she is an every-working woman. Most of us can’t afford to have her new motherhood experience BUT it does mean that she can be a CEO, a role model for other women who want to succeed in business AND she can be a mom.

So everyone should stop making an issue of her pregnancy and applaud Yahoo for choosing the best-qualified candidate – who just happens to have a beautiful baby bump!

Bonnie Fuller

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