Sisterhood Blog

More Thoughts on Marissa Mayer's Choice

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images

Marissa Mayer became a new mother on September 30th when her son, whose name has apparently not yet been chosen, was born. While Mayer’s labor has ended, discussion of what she means as a symbol of working motherhood has not.

It’s true that Mayer is one of just 20 women to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and “the only one to take the job while pregnant,” notes Lisa Miller in her profile of Mayer in the current issue of New York magazine. The day Yahoo announced Mayer’s hiring, in July, Mayer made public the fact that she was pregnant.

Mayer’s taking the post just two and a half months away from giving birth to her first child has made her perhaps the most-scrutinized working mother ever on the national stage.

According to Miller, “she appears to exist as a living, breathing rebuttal to the Atlantic’s recent ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’ cover story.” Miller writes:

Sheryl Sandberg might agree. Sandberg, who grew friendly with Mayer when they both worked at Google, is the chief operating officer of Facebook and has been promoting a message recently that is, for her, somewhat new.

Women must be able to integrate their identities as mothers with their identities as professionals or they’ll never be happy at work. And then they’ll never succeed at the highest levels.

“Before this,” Sandberg said in a speech at Harvard Business School earlier this year, “I did my career like everyone else does it. I never told anyone I was a girl. Don’t tell. I left the lights on when I went home to do something for my kids. I locked my office door and pumped milk for my babies while I was on conference calls. And people would say, ‘What is that sound?’ I would say, ‘What sound?’ ‘I hear a beep.’ ‘Oh, there’s a fire truck.’ ”

Mayer, Miller writes, has a strong ability to compartmentalize the parts of her life and to treat the fact that she is female as incidental, rather than fundamental.

But that is her choice to make, as is the length of her family leave which, she said soon after announcing her pregnancy would be just a few weeks long, and that she would work while on leave.

I enjoyed my only real opportunity to be in the new-baby bubble, when my first was born and I had six months of union contract-guaranteed family leave (albeit mostly unpaid). By the time I had my third baby, I was working two-thirds time for a company which gave part-timers no family leave at all, and so took just a week off before starting to file stories again.

But as nice as it can be to have that bonding time, for some of us it would be even nicer to be a hugely-paid corporate leader (with a base salary of $1 million, plus innumerable compensatory “sweeteners”) who undoubtedly has all the pricey baby nurse help she could possibly want.

And the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all maternity leave for women, especially those in the top ranks of corporate life, is not the point.

What is surely more trenchant is whether or not the choice to take a longer leave is offered to Yahoo employees (I could not find anything online about their family leave policy) — and those in other companies, for-profit and not — who wish to take it.

The fact that “at last, that fertility, intellect, and big ambition can sometimes co-exist,” as Miller puts it, indicates that we have come a long way since the days, just a few decades ago, when women had to quit their teaching jobs the moment their pregnancies were visible.

But the fact that we’re talking so much about Mayer’s symbolism indicates that we haven’t yet gotten far enough.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yahoo, Maternity Leave, Marissa Mayer

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.