his week, beleaguered internet company Yahoo made big news when it announced that 37-year-old Marissa Mayer, a former executive at Google, will be Yahoo's new CEO. But while analysts were debating Mayer's impact on Yahoo's future, speculation on the hire's implications was nearly eclipsed by the revelation that Mayer is six months pregnant. Mayer reportedly informed the Yahoo board of the pregnancy during the recruitment process, and says she'll be on maternity leave for a few weeks, during which she plans to continue working. Is her pregnancy a big deal? Here, four talking points:
1. This is a huge step forward for women
By adding Mayer to the handful of women who have reached the top of an industry dominated by males, Yahoo already behaved remarkably, says Jena McGregor at The Washington Post. What makes Yahoo's appointment revolutionary is the fact that its board "did not reveal any concerns about hiring a CEO who is expecting a baby in three months." This "fundamentally shifts the discussion on women in leadership" positions, and "every board or leader that has ever questioned promoting a woman — whether she's pregnant, has small children, is in her 20s, or in her 60s — now has a new standard by which to judge their decision." Bravo.
2. And Mayer takes 'having it all' to a new level
Mayer "is about to become the new role model" in an ongoing debate over whether women can "have it all" by managing a family and a high-powered job, says Allison Terry at The Christian Science Monitor. The task of fixing Yahoo, which has been going downhill for years, would be a "big enough professional challenge" without adding new motherhood into the equation. Mayer could "redefine what it means to balance work and family life," and "it will be interesting to see how she will use this new position to support working mothers and women in the tech industry."
3. But it raises new questions over CEO medical disclosures
Mayer's maternity leave may worry investors, says Francine McKenna at Forbes. Apple, for example, "shrugged off" health inquiries about the late Steve Jobs, whose mysterious disappearances unnerved markets and bolstered the "argument that the company had a duty to update" shareholders about the CEO's health. "Mayer is 37, and pregnancy is more risky for her and the boy than if she were younger," meaning that "contingency planning, starting now, should also be in the works."
4. Huh? This brouhaha is completely sexist
"Here we go again," says Deborah Petersen at San Jose Mercury News. "A woman becomes CEO of one of the most high profile tech companies in the world," and all anyone can talk about is her impending motherhood. "Can anyone tell me the parental status of" Apple CEO Tim Cook? No, because he's a man, and "as a society, we don't feel the need to advise [men] or judge them about the reproduction decisions they make outside the office. We reserve that for women." The obsession with Mayer's pregnancy is fundamentally sexist. "And, really if she can manage to turn around Yahoo, she'll find that raising a child will be a snap."
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