Are we having the right conversation about Marissa Mayer? Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO and the youngest in the Fortune 500, according to Fortune Magazine, is also the 19th female CEO and an expectant mother. We can choose to view this as a success for women (as long as we don’t act too surprised), however, in the year 2012, it seems like we’re still talking about Mayer’s gender—or issues surrounding her gender (pregnancy, her looks, etc.)—for all the wrong reasons.
(by Alissa Fleck)
According to the Boston Globe, “Working mothers and workplace observers pronounced themselves encouraged that Mayer’s pregnancy was not a factor [in the appointment], somewhat annoyed that in 2012 a pregnant chief executive even merits conversation.”
The conversation about whether you can “have it all” has been a hot topic as long as women have had top jobs. Victoria Budson, founding executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said we should be focusing more on how companies can better maximize talent, including incorporating women of “child-bearing years,” rather than talking about whether you can really “have it all,” according to the Globe.
Though here at NY Press we do feel the need to question why the Globe follows this observation up by dissecting Mayer’s beauty. How often does that happen with male CEOs? Do we somehow take her achievements at Google to be all the more astonishing because she has a “Kathleen Turner voice” (according to Vogue)? Not that there’s anything wrong with being a beautiful CEO. I mean, let’s talk about Tim Armstrong over at AOL. Let’s talk about how he “demolishes old-fashioned oppositions of beauty and brains” (also Vogue), or maybe not, because, you know, he’s a man.
In 2010, when there were 12 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, 11 of them were mothers, reported the Wall Street Journal. Mothering does not just make you incommunicado after 5 p.m., it has its benefits in the CEO world—learning to raise children can facilitate the management of others. Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said “parenthood taught her the value of picking battles at home and work,” according to the WSJ. So if we decide to view motherhood as a moot point, or even an upside, what conversation should we be having about gender?
Unfortunately the WSJ also reported the reality: “Men with children are more likely to rise into management than women with children in most major industries.” Additionally, women who manage still make 79 cents to the dollar of men who manage, a figure which has stagnated since 2000, said the Journal.
This is why the conversation about gender must stay on the table, but for the right reasons. Hopefully when the next expectant, mother or woman CEO is designated, we won’t have to talk about whether it will be doable, we can just talk about progress.
Trackback from your site.