Tag Archive | work from home

Marissa Mayer: Feminist Failure?

By Karen Hendricks

Photo Credit: Peter Kramer, Associated Press

Photo Credit: Peter Kramer, Associated Press

My head is spinning from the Marissa Mayer news coverage this week. To those moms who don’t have time to follow the news, I apologize. I’m a news junkie. But I know there are days when it’s hard enough to remember what month it is, let alone find the time to keep up with daily current events. However, in this case you really ought to know what’s going on because there’s a ripple effect touching women everywhere.

So here’s the play-by-play:

  • Marissa Mayer is the CEO of Yahoo who made headlines for announcing her pregnancy the same day she was appointed as CEO in July 2012. (A new female icon is born!)
  • A long-time Google executive, Mayer created anticipation and excitement at Yahoo! Could she turn around the struggling company? (A female CEO who is not only smart-as-a-whip but beautiful and pregnant… awesome!)
  • Leading up to the birth of her son on September 30, Mayer said she would take as little maternity time as possible, only two weeks. (Hmmm… Superwoman? She’ll change her tune once she gives birth!)
  • But return to work in two weeks, she did, with a nursery installed next door to her office for her son, to boot. (Very cool, however this is not something the average working mom can relate to… <understatement>)
  • Then the mother firework of all ear-popping, sky-blasting pyrotechnics: A week ago today, a memo circulated at Yahoo, ordering all employees who worked from home to either quit or begin working in the office full-time by June. (Hello? Does Mayer not understand feminist loyalty and her leadership role as a female CEO?)

There are a multitude of angles to this story, and I’ve compiled a bunch of them from this week’s tops news coverage:

Is Mayer out of touch?

“Many women were appalled at the Yahoo news, noting that Mayer, with her penthouse atop the San Francisco Four Seasons, her Oscar de la Rentas and her $117 million five-year contract, seems oblivious to the fact that for many of her less-privileged sisters with young children, telecommuting is a lifeline to a manageable life,” writes News York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd. She continues, “The dictatorial decree to work ‘side by side’ had some dubbing Mayer not ‘the Steinem of Silicon Valley’ but ‘the Stalin of Silicon Valley.’”

Is Mayer courageous?

Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson quotes a source familiar with the situation at Yahoo as saying, “Yahoo has a huge number of people of who work remotely – people who just never come in.  Many of these people ‘weren’t productive.’… Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won’t want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It’s a layoff that’s not a layoff… ‘She’s turned out to have a lot of courage. She’s dealing with problems no one wanted to deal with before (according to the source).’”

Off with her head!

“But there really isn’t anything more annoying than an extraordinarily lucky genius with movie star looks and a $127 million contract acting as if what’s easy for her should be easy for everybody else,” writes Margery Eagen in the Boston Herald. She continues, “She’s a mega-celebrity, superstar CEO with a tin ear and a preachy mouth. In a few short months, she’s gone from 21st cent­ury role model to Marie Antoinette.”

Would it have been different coming from a male CEO?

Sheelah Kohlhatkar of Bloomberg Businessweek summarizes, “No one knows whether the decision to require all Yahoo employees to work in an office will prove to be positive or negative for the company; it may be personally disastrous for some of the individuals affected and the best thing that ever happened to others. But if one of the hundreds of men running American companies had made a similar move, it’s unlikely that anyone would have even noticed.”

O, the irony!

Similarly, The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus writes, “How ironic that a technology company, dedicated to enabling connectivity, would enforce such a retrograde, back-to-the-assembly-line edict. It reflect a bricks-and-mortar mindset in an increasingly cyber world. How depressing that this edict comes from a female CEO, albeit a seemingly bionic one. You have to wonder whether this is Mayer demonstrating that she is as tough — or as boneheaded — as any guy.”

A step backwards despite advances in technology?

Gender issues aside, Max Nisen of Business Insider also mentions the growing trend of telecommuting: “What’s pretty clear from details that have emerged is that Yahoo did an exceptionally bad job at managing its remote workers. People who worked from home were apparently unproductive and so disconnected from the company that people forgot that they worked at Yahoo at all… But rather than try to deal with those issues, Yahoo’s chosen just to end remote work completely. That’s understandable. Mayer’s trying to clean house and completely change a company that’s had several CEOs in quick succession. But she may have created a long-term problem. Advances in technology, changes in preferences, and an increasingly globalized workforce mean that the trend towards remote workers and fewer offices will only grow in the future.”

Ok – your turn… What do you think? Was Mayer’s announcement a good business decision? Is she insulting women with her actions? Did she do long-term damage to those who telecommute? Ultimately, is she a role model?