Over the last several days, there has been an internet furor over Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s edict to employees that they can no longer work remotely (read: from home, from Starbucks…). Almost all of womankind took to tweeting, blogging, and writing opinion pieces about what a horrible policy Mayer was instituting and how she was setting women back instead of being a working mother/CEO to whom we could relate. I, too, am guilty of going on the defensive about Mayer’s decision. But then I thought: If Marissa Mayer were a man, would there be the same outrage?
I have worked as a high level executive through two pregnancies, and can tell you the ills of corporate culture when it pertains to women with children—but you already know much of them. You also know that men and women are treated very differently in the workplace. Now we find ourselves in a position where we are criticizing a female CEO for a decision that, if made by a man, would not cause as much as a drop in the corporate bucket. In fact, if a man were to have a nursery built in his office, he would be a hero. He would not be the target of criticism from other fathers; nor would he be representative of an entire gender.
Marissa Mayer does not have an easy job. She has been charged with turning around a company that has been in flux for some time. Everyone knows that in order to shrink overhead, you need to get rid of dead weight; you need to review performances on every level. This is no easy task. One would think at this point in her career, Marissa Mayer has nothing to prove. Wrong. She has everything to prove, and being a woman makes it that much harder to do so. Granted, having Human Resources send a blanket memo was not the most prudent decision, but it certainly does get the message across that Mayer is a force to be reckoned with. My guess is if a man handled it the same way, he would just be doing his job.
I understand the ramifications of Mayer’s decision, but I also think we have to examine the issue from both a male and female perspective. The success of a man is measured so differently than the success of a woman. Women are scrutinized in the workplace far more for taking time off to take a child to the doctor, attend a school function, or, God forbid, leave the office at 5pm. The majority of us are not Marissa Mayer. We do not have the same financial security, the fancy wardrobe, or the household staff. However, we do have one thing in common with the CEO of Yahoo!: our gender. While I may disagree with her tactics, a part of me feels like I have to support Marissa Mayer in her role as mother and CEO. After all, the path from the boardroom to the nursery is never a straight one.