I admit I’d never heard her name before Monday as I am not what some would call “in the tech sector.” Still I found out pretty quickly when Marissa Mayer was named Yahoo’s CEO. I read an article talking about her rise through Google and thought “hmmm, maybe she will help Yahoo turn a corner.” It wasn’t until the next day that I found out she was pregnant. I was informed of this fact by my boss.
I’m all for shattered glass ceilings. I think it’s awesome that Yahoo named a female CEO. It’s also pretty freaking sweet that this chick is only 37. The fact that she got the job in spite of being 6 months pregnant is a clear indication that people see incredible talent in this power house of woman. In these ways she inspires me. I’ve been thinking more and more lately about the gender gap and I’d like to think that closed a bit this week.
But at the end of a pregnancy there is inevitably the maternity leave question. According to Forbes, Mayer plans to take “a few weeks” and work through her leave. Sure, she has the money to have all the help she might need, and her kid will probably turn out just fine. It’s the precedent that mentality sets that worries me. It’s the fact that my boss told me about her short maternity leave that tells me the bar for women in corporate america has just been raised.
Compared to other countries our maternity leave policies (or lack thereof) are shit. It is mostly up to the companies to decide what kind of benefit they want to offer their employees. Some are certainly more progressive than others, and sure there are woman who take advantage of these companies by taking the paid leave only to return and quit. I just wish there was some standard.
Like Mayer, I am also due with my first baby. Also a boy. When I tell people I’m only taking 6 weeks off most start looking at me cross-eyed. “You need 12” they say, “you won’t sleep until at least 3 months”. We won’t have a night nurse, or a live in nanny or any of that, although my mom is ready and willing to come and help out as much as I need her. I’ve spent enough hours that they would probably add up to days during this pregnancy wondering if this is enough time and what the adjustment will really be like. I finally decided I will just return to work part time. Just as I was getting comfortable with my decisions along came Mrs. Mayer and her “few weeks” answer and now I’ve entered another mental free fall. Look over there! It’s corporate America’s expectation rising. If I stay on this track will even six weeks be considered too long?
I take a deep breath and realize I’m not a power woman. I am not running a Fortune 500 company, nor being paid as though I do. But I know that I am important to the little company I’ve worked at for 10 years. A place I have helped grow from 5 to over 15 employees with revenues that have exceeded everyone’s expectations. I know that my work ethic has set the bar high for those who may follow my footsteps when and if I decide it is time to move on. I just wish I knew what it will be like when I have this kid.