Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

What No One Is Saying About Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s New CEO

Family by Nina Matthews Photography via Flickr CC

As is the custom on Friday, a break from Busting Your Corporate Idol.

Marissa Mayer is the new CEO of Yahoo.  She has an impressive track record at Google, and is eminently qualified to take over.  But there is a big brouhaha and a lot of hand-wringing over her pregnancy.  What really got people going was her comment to Fortune Magazine.

My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.

The debate has been blistering Melissa Hincha-Ownby at the Mother Nature Network summarized it this way.

This sent the mommyverse into a tailspin. Some mothers praised her determination and work ethic, others denounced her decision as selfish and mourned for the son who won’t spend much quality time with his mother while others think she’s going to be in for a rude awakening once her son is here and she won’t have time to work at all.

I am a big advocate of people-first values, and The Idolbuster has a number of posts about the personal cost of a 90 hour work week, which Mayer apparently worked at Google.

So what people should come first here?

Is it the new baby, and if so does that mean that women should never work with a newborn in the house?  The woman who cleans my house was pregnant one week, and back at work the next.  I was so shocked.  I assumed she would take the week off, but was back right away.  I expect she couldn’t afford to forgo a week of pay.

Is it the employees, investors, or customers of Yahoo who need Mayer’s expertise to turn the company around?  I read Yahoo news multiple times every day, and I want the company to succeed.  In my opinion Yahoo would be just fine if she truly unplugged, but I can understand why she would want to work through.

Is Marissa Mayer herself the person we should put first?  And if we want to, how would we go about it?  Should we save her from herself, and push her into taking a longer or shorter leave?  If I read another “she doesn’t know what she’s getting into” handwringing post, I’ll shoot myself.

Here is the simple truth: none of us know what is best for Mayer or her family.  But our course of action here is simple.  Mayer deserves the basic respect to make her own choices and tradeoffs without our punditry.  She is an adult, and gets to choose what is the most fulfilling path for her life.  The Golden Rule says “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or “don’t treat others in ways you don’t like to be treated.” And I can’t imagine anyone would want a Facebook poll to be taken about their maternity leave.  It is no one else’s business what Marissa Mayer does in her family life.

And one more thing:  Am I the only one on the world who thinks maybe her husband will stay home with the newborn?  Her husband, Zachary Bogue, is a lawyer and Co-Managing Partner at Data Collective.  The very idea that he would take care of the newborn seems out of the question.

For my marketing friends: we need a phrase to describe the societal barriers that make it hard for men to take care of the family.  We need something that is analogous to The Glass Ceiling.  Somehow The Glass Remote doesn’t seem to cover it.



  1. Thanks for sharing a link to my story on the topic Greg. I think you have really hit the nail on the head with your “Here is the simple truth” paragraph.

  2. Greg,
    Nice piece. I appreciate your humane approach and respect for others.
    As to your point about the corollary to the glass ceiling, Friedan’s “feminine mystique” is surely matched by a similar phenomenon on the male side. As women felt they were “supposed” to enjoy the little wife at home syndrome, many men think they are supposed to enjoy “making a killing” (even if they’re scraping by). In both cases, it’s not just an individual situation when one feels alienated from their deep-down societal roles; it’s a widespread social issue.
    As a guy who has been the lead parent for almost 15 years now I think you’re absolutely right that we need to help men to consider the awesome choice of leading at home. For many of us, it’s wonderful work; and if we so choose then a Yahoo CEO or a Governor or President who takes a short maternity leave is totally covered at home. There is then no controversy.


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