Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, has been criticized after announcing she is taking as little as two weeks of maternity leave and will be “working throughout” when she gives birth to identical twins later this year – with some upset that her break will be so brief, and others that she even has to talk about it at all.
The tech company’s leader has been at the centre of discussion about working mothers ever since she was hired to turn around struggling Yahoo in 2012. Pregnant at the time, Mayer quickly announced she would be taking only a little time off. The announcement was followed soon after by a company edict banning working from home.
“Mayer’s announcement is disappointing,” said Anne Weisberg, senior vice-president of the Families and Work Institute in New York. “She’s a role model and I think she should take whatever Yahoo’s parental leave is – the mark of a great leader is that they have a strong team and don’t need to be there all the time themselves. And she’s having twins – just physically that’s a big deal.”
Weisberg pointed out that how corporate leaders handle the issue of parental leave is “hugely symbolic” for their own employees and, in the case of a female boss, women everywhere.
“She must know it’s not just a personal choice. I gave her a pass when she just arrived at Yahoo and then took little maternity leave, but now she does not have to prove herself as a CEO; the company is no longer in transition – but now people will read from this that if you want to be a leader you cannot do what your company even allows you to do, you’ve got to be there all the time and it’s work above everything else,” said Weisberg.
She said the institute will soon issue research findings that show men and women equally value a decent life outside of work.
“I think that now it takes more courage for leaders to point out that it’s not ‘either, or’ when it comes to commitments to parenthood and work. It’s possible for men and women to excel at both,” said Weisberg.
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