Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s New (Pregnant) CEO, Isn’t Special.

What I really want to say is that Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo who announced shortly after her landmark appointment this week that she’s pregnant and due to give birth to a baby boy in October, is my hero. She is, after all, taking a sledge hammer to the glass ceiling—grabbing the corner office of a Fortune 500 company with a baby in her belly and vowing to take only a short working maternity leave with her firstborn so that she can get down to the business of ruling the world. Clearly, Mayer is convinced she can have it all, and to prove it, she’s going for it, critics be damned.

Still, the raging debate about whether Mayer can balance her new gig with being a new mom and whether Yahoo’s decision to hire her despite her pregnancy signals a sea-change in the way pregnancy is handled in the workplace, leaves me queasy and a tad ticked off that some very real issues are totally being missed here. Let’s be clear: Mayer is a BOSS. She will slip into her new role at Yahoo and then she will go away and birth her baby in October and she will have her son on her breast and a husband by her side and a cell phone at each ear and enough money, flexibility and staff at her beck-and-call to miss not one beat as the head of her company. It won’t be easy, mind you—any woman who’s pushed a baby from her loins, woken up at 1:27 a.m., 3:01 a.m. and 4:15 a.m. for diaper changes and feedings, and felt post-pregnancy hormones take over her body like the demons in The Exorcist, can attest to this. But Mayer’s got the resources to make it work. And, most importantly, the ability to make a choice to do so.

The debate, then, isn’t really whether she can or should do it. The very real question is why do we still live in a presumably civilized society—one that stands so morally and righteously on a platform of “family values”—where a majority of mothers are still being denied the choice Mayer enjoys? What she’s doing isn’t new or revolutionary: every day, mothers across America with limited resources, incomes and physical, mental and emotional support squat in the fields of this land, birth their babies and then head back to the assembly lines and the secretary desks and the fast food restaurants without benefit of choice—the choice to either spend precious time with their newborns, head back to work quickly because they want to do their jobs, or pull together a combination of the two so that they can be moms and good workers. America’s ridiculously arcane maternity leave laws, which benefit only a slither of our country’s moms, make the balance impossible—especially for regular moms with regular jobs. Basically, most working moms.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not handing the “hero” cape to Marissa Mayer. It’s much to tattered with the blood, sweat, tears and breast milk of working mothers who are barely hanging on, who don’t have choices, who lack the support system and the money and the status to enjoy their ideal mom experience—the one that works for babies and the women who birth them. How much you want to bet that the DNA of a Yahoo secretary or janitor or cafeteria worker is on that tattered cape? Marinate on that. Discuss.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Saida M Latigue

    Excellent, point, Denene. I also read an article that stated she won’t even be on maternity leave per se the usual 6-8 weeks, that she will be working during that time.
    Not to pass judgement, but I thought that sent a message that maternity leave isn’t important or necessary or needed, and frankly, that sends a message in my mind that other expecting women at Yahoo & other companies will follow suit. I don’t find that logic healthy or groundbreaking or a positive example to any other working women whatsoever.

  2. Melissa Mayer will be a hero if she can take this experience and find ways to make working parenthood more humane for those of us who don’t have her advantages. I hope she will.

  3. YASSSS. And forgive me, but if we want to see real change in this country, it is only going to happen if the Marissa Mayers of the world demand it. I’m not as convinced as you are that Yahoo! is going to offer her a ton of flexibility. She has said herself she won’t really be taking a maternity leave (“working throughout” for a “few weeks” is not maternity leave to me). She would have gotten hero status in my eyes if she had insisted on a real maternity leave, the flexibility to bring her baby to work, or work from home so she could be more-hands on and TALKED ABOUT IT and praised Yahoo! for getting it. Then we would’ve seen more CEOs following suit, and eventually it would trickle down to the rest of us lowly office drones and peons. Although I don’t agree with all of Linda Hirshman’s stances on this issue, the one thing I think she got totally right is that when women in high positions “opt out” to be stay-at-home moms it hurts everyone, because they are the ones who can fight for real change. When Marissa Mayer plays by the same rule book a man would, and doesn’t take any time off in order to have a baby, I think it hurts us in the same way.

    • I totally agree! Her choice to not take a long maternity leave indicates she is trying to play like a man. We as women can change the game and request what we need and want as women. As a woman in IT time and time again we are often required to play the game like our male counterparts. I have discovered, there are parts of me that say, I am a woman and I cannot play that way. I would want Mayers to change the game and work towards better maternity leave, not run from it. These are one of the reasons why, having children is not on my agenda. Society, especially in the IT industry is not supportive.

  4. Well Ms. Mayer will be able to afford nannies and daycare – where many of us can’t. I work full-time too, and have when I had my three kids. I had to return to work after 6 short darn weeks. For my first child, I wasn’t paid b/c I had just started work and didn’t have time built up.

    It is sad that U.S. is the last in the world to allow only 6 weeks to take care of your newborn in the work world (some employers are far worse). I think she would be more of a hero if she would take more time to be with her newborn (the newborn needs to bond with its mother) and fight for more mother’s rights in the work world.

  5. I do wish she would have taken more time. It places an incredibly high burden on other women – even those in higher income and education brackets – to be back to work very soon after giving birth. The refrain will be akin to if she can do it, why not others? It also adds to the “economic” argument for why women – mothers especially – make less: because they take too much time off.

  6. *slow cabbage patching*

  7. Let’s wait until she has the baby to see what happens. Her “I don’t need maternity leave” attitude may change. Fingers crossed that Yahoo has lactation rooms.

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