She Has a Vagina and Decided to Use It

Did you hear that the failing Yahoo hired another CEO? They announced that the young and talented Marissa Mayer, who just happens to be the one in charge of keeping Google’s homepage Google’s HOMEPAGE (among other things), had been chosen for the job President and CEO of Yahoo (YahoooooOOOooo!) on July 16th.

On the same day that Yahoo announced her hiring, Marissa also announced via her twitter that her and her husband were expecting a baby boy. She is 6 months pregnant.

On July 17th – her first official day of work according to reports – they announced an earnings call and that Marissa Mayer wasn’t going to attend. The report said that she was still getting caught up on the day to day. And then the crowd went ape-shit.

I had saved Twitter evidence to show you all of the yuck (cuz you don’t already know about the yuck, right?) but today those tweets and comments and really really shitty articles can magically no longer be found on the internet. Like Brian Sullivan of CNBC who is now backtracking like a FIEND.

Oh and this article from the Brisbane Times (the world is smaller and smaller) that had a GIANT quote from Cook & Co, the executive search firm saying that

Even though companies know they can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, when they’re looking for very senior hires, they’re still likely to be cautious. If they have two equal candidates, one who’s pregnant and one who isn’t, they are likely to choose the one who’s not about to become a mother.

Then it came out that – not to worry! 1) Yahoo totally knew that she was pregnant before they hired her and 2) she said she would work through maternity anyway. No productivity will be lost! She is superman and after having a major medical event she will hop right back on her blackberry like nothing ever happened.

Which I think is totally fine. If you want to take as much time as you can with your kid before going back to work – you should. And if you want to peace out of maternity leave then that is also your choice. But! If the CEO of Yahoo is working through Maternity (the few weeks she says that she will be working from home), because that’s how she was able to get the job, or because of social/work pressure, then that fucking sucks. It sucks not just for her, but for all the rest of us non-CEO types.

Then I read this MSNBC article called “New Yahoo CEO Says She’ll Work Through Maternity Leave“. MSNBC is a pretty reliable new source. It’s said to be rather liberal and hosts the Today Show! (My beloved Today Show.) So you would imagine my disappointment when I read items like this:

Mayer chose to disclose her pregnancy to the company’s board before she got the final job offer, and the board was supposedly fine and dandy with the news.

Is it me or is that tone of that sentence condescending and a tad bit sarcastic? Supposedly… they were peaches and cream about the whole shebang! Ah yes, she actually HAS a vagina and THEN decided to use it. Stop the presses!

In any case Yahoo’s board is to be applauded for looking beyond Mayer’s pregnancy to the leadership she can provide the company over the long term.

Congratulations Yahoo! You didn’t discriminate against a pregnant woman! Something that is illegal anyway. Pat on the back for you for finding it in your hearts and minds to realize mothers can work hard too. I’m really, really, really tired of congratulating people and companies for NOT doing shitty things. Gold star! Everyone clap for Yahoo! Barf. Why don’t we wait and see if she can actually make a dent in Yahoo’s failing business model – child or not – before we praise anyone about anything.

The MSNBC article does have some interesting facts about how this country doesn’t value women or women’s health though!

Although it is also worth noting that not all women are as lucky as Mayer to even have a maternity leave benefit. (The United States is one of the only industrialized nations without mandated maternity leave.)

I don’t even really know how to end this. It’s frustrating and exhausting that this is such a big discussion. I guess, I want to continue to highlight the fact that discrimination does exist – she got the job, yes, but public opinion (and outrage) is a giant voting booth, and the fact that this generated TONS of articles, negative (and some good) commentary, shows that we really aren’t there yet. My reproduction choices are a place for debate. How should she handle her pregnancy? How should she handle her kid? Will she be less of a CEO because now she is a mom? No one asks these questions about men. No one puts men under the microscope for their family choices (I guess unless they are cheating on their wives or talking about how “the gays” are going to hell and then we find out they are secretly doing it in men’s bathrooms). If you google Marissa Mayor most of the entire front page of the search is allll about how she’s pregnant.

And truly – it’s ridiculously condescending for Yahoo to be congratulated on such a noble LEAP forward when she hasn’t done ANYTHING yet to prove that she can actually fix Yahoo. If we’re talking real equality, that should be the only defining factor when you are hired as a CEO: can you get the job done.

15 thoughts on “She Has a Vagina and Decided to Use It”

  1. It always frustrated me how maternity leave is often viewed as a break or a vacation or unncecssary (I don’t have any kids, but from what I’ve heard it’s no vacation) but I never really though about it as recovering from a medical event. If Yahoo! had hired a guy who was scheduled to have back surgery in 3 months and would be out for 6 weeks, no one would bat an eye. Uggh.

  2. These types of issues are so frustrating to me, because they shouldn’t even exist as issues, as you say. When I was working at a job I hated, and one of the women there said to me, “You know, this really isn’t a bad place to work. When I had cancer, the insurance covered me, and I was able to come back to work as soon as I was ready,” I wanted to cry because, “They didn’t fire me for having cancer” shouldn’t make a place a “good” place to work. That should be the bare minimum.

    I feel like this is the same thing. Wow, you hired a pregnant lady, way to go. Now can we solve some real issues?

    1. Kamel and I were talking about this in the shower yesterday and he goes, “Like that lady who was relieved to not get fired from her job because she had CANCER?! WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!”

      This story… is exactly what is fucked with our healthcare system and compassion in the workplace.

  3. I fear she won’t get the job done. And then they’ll blame it on her having the baby. And then use it to justify the abysmally low rate of women in CEO positions.

    BUT those are MY selfish fears about the female CEO of Yahoo being pregnant. Those are fears that Marissa Mayor, the individual, really doesn’t need to concern herself with. Want kids? Have kids. Want to be a CEO? Be a CEO. Do your best at both. Make sacrifices where needed.

    I think that’s why things get complicated for women fast. We’re mostly able to plug along until we hit a glass ceiling. The right thing to do, for “the cause,” is usually to break through it running as fast as possible. The right thing to do for yourself and your family is to weigh the pros and cons where the cons often outweigh the pros. Complicated shit.

    1. I feel you on that fear. But what bothers me MORE is the thought that even if she does get the job done, that no one will really take her (hopeful! fingers crossed!) success in navigating career and parenthood to heart. That it will be seen more as an exception than the rule.

  4. “No one asks these questions about men. No one puts men under the microscope for their family choices (I guess unless they are cheating on their wives or talking about how “the gays” are going to hell and then we find out they are secretly doing it in men’s bathrooms).”

    This is what it all boils down to for me. I think the debate and drama surrounding women’s reproductive choices sucks, because I’m a woman, and I don’t want people having those conversations about me. But I understand why people discuss them. It seems like a valid question to ask, will a person with a child be as productive, successful, capable, committed, etc. to their job as a person without a child. But that’s not the question people are asking! As you point out, nobody asks that question about fathers, only mothers. Men have been having kids as long as women have, and also working crazy demanding jobs and doing them well. Why do I have to defend my ability to do the same thing? If we’re going to have the debate, let’s at least have it about everyone.

  5. I lost my appetite reading the Bloomberg piece on Mayer’s appointment this morning. My reaction, like yours, was disgust over the fact that Yahoo is to be lauded for the fact that they hired a pregnant woman. All this media coverage, and I understand more about Mayer’s reproductive situation, than the experience and leadership abilities that landed her this position. It’s embarrassing, really.

  6. Argh!! all very well made points in the comments – so many angles to consider it just gets me SEETHING mad. Mainly, for me at least, on top of the gender implications and double standards and “unproductive untill proven awesome” perspective that the public has towards working moms (umm hello, dumb) – its about how we view ourselves as humans and contributors to society and we value BEING human alongside or within/without our jobs. Part of being human is having children, having a surgery if needed, handling family stuff, travelling to our kids college bc they are threatening to drop out due to mental health issues, taking a vacation bc we deserve it, leaving early to go to the bank, etc etc and the list goes on! these things (both good and sometimes not so good) are part of life, and so our jobs, but one should NOT cancel out the other. We are all experiencing life in different ways, some have kids, some dont, some marry or dont marry – and our jobs should support us in those varying ways. Need a mental health day off once a month? take it! need maternity leave? take it! need PATERNITY LEAVE!? take it!! Grrr on so many levels.

    It shouldnt be “oh, they didnt fire her, way to go” it should

  7. If the CEO of Yahoo is working through Maternity (the few weeks she says that she will be working from home), because that’s how she was able to get the job, or because of social/work pressure, then that fucking sucks. It sucks not just for her, but for all the rest of us non-CEO types.

    And there’s the nut. I don’t want children, but I hate that we’re so behind the curve on this. Though, technically, we *do* have mandatory leave policies, in the form of FMLA. FMLA does not go far enough, and if you’ve used your FMLA allowance for the year (i.e., bedrest), you’re screwed.

  8. I was thinking about this on the way to work this morning. I’m sort of torn because on the one hand, it is great that her pregnancy didn’t stop her from getting the job. Even the possibility that a woman might get pregnant at some point has stopped women from advancing in the workplace. It would be amazing if we didn’t have to note this as being exceptional, but that’s not the world we live in.

    On the other hand, Marissa Mayer is not your average working mom. She is rich and well established and will almost certainly be able to afford all the live-in or nearly 24-hour help that she needs, from day one. As CEO she has an incredible amount of flexibility in how and when and where she works. This is not something most employees (of Yahoo or certainly of anywhere else) have. So, hey, great, she is going to work through maternity leave. That doesn’t mean she’ll have to get up and be at her desk by 8am and clock out at 5pm or her supervisor will be angry.

    Really, what makes me angry about the whole situation, is the wealth factor. Like, OF COURSE the regular rules of sexism and discrimination don’t apply to the richest, most powerful folks. I’d be more impressed if I heard that Yahoo also hired pregnant mid-level engineers who planned to take every minute of their non-working paid maternity leave and didn’t think it was an issue. I don’t think Yahoo deserves a lot of applause for going after someone who is as remarkable as Mayer.

    P.S. Did MSNBC really use the phrase “fine and dandy with the news” in a legit article?

    1. I think the fact that she is privileged is sort of another issue. An issue worth tackling because not just anyone can up and work through maternity leave, so having an example that can is damaging to women’s health everywhere possibly.

      There is a major difference between women of the world and rich or privileged women of the world. But! the more women are part of the rich and powerful folk the better chance we have for equality.

      And yes… MSNBC really did say “fine and dandy” …. is that no MINDBLOWING?

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