Marissa Mayer was recently named CEO of Yahoo.
A great many articles have been written on the subject already, especially as several hours after that decision was announced, she announced that she is expecting her first child in October.
The board of directors of Yahoo were fully aware and still hired her. As annoying as it is that that's news, it is news and I'm incredibly excited both to see how Ms. Mayer will do at Yahoo, as well as happy for her personal announcement.
But now much of the talk has turned to a quote she gave about how she is only planning on taking a few weeks of maternity leave. Specifically that she "expects it to be speedy... [as she] 'likes to stay in the rhythm of things.'" And it seems as though some people have taken that to mean that she is undercutting women's rights to maternity leave everywhere, and that as a woman in a high position she should be setting the perfect example.
Instead of focusing on that, let's focus on the bigger picture.
A predominantly male board of directors (one woman on the board from a list found here) hired a pregnant woman to run a Fortune 500 company.
I'm 30 years old. I honestly didn't know if that would ever happen during my lifetime, especially as we're still dealing with a culture where the current article-of-the-week on women being able to have it all ends up pitting women against each other instead of focusing on real ways that all parents can be better supported in the work place.
I haven't found any one who can think of another time that a pregnant woman has been CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation (nor have other sites). And I'm sure I'm not the only one who wondered about if it would ever happen, rather than when.
Instead of expecting that Ms. Mayer will fix all of the wrongs with respect to maternity leave and the issues that working parents face in this country, let's focus on the fact that pregnancy wasn't considered a deterrent to hiring an incredibly impressive and talented woman into an incredibly tough (and visible) chief executive position.
A friend wrote a great post about this yesterday which I feel sums up a lot of how I feel about this issue, but states it in a much more eloquent manner. Ultimately, it's about choice. The choice to stay home, to work, to work part time, to be able to provide and take care of your family in the manner that works best for you and your family. A lot of women don't have that choice. Ms. Mayer will have a lot of options not readily available to other women. But the fact that this board of directors didn't let her pregnancy become any sort of obstacle to her employment makes me hope that things will continue to change until women without Ms. Mayer's resources will be able to have the kinds of choices they want and need for their own families.
As we continue to work to get to that point, I want to give a big hell yes to all women getting promoted and kicking ass whether they're pregnant, a mom to several kids or don't have any kids. I love hearing stories about women kicking ass in the business world, and I expect more of them as people realize how many smart women there are out there, and take advantage of their expertise.
And I also want to give a big congratulations to Ms. Mayer on the new gig and on her new baby. Best wishes with both new adventures!