Pregnant with Possibility. Responding to the yahoos.

I was shocked at the things written last week about Yahoo!‘s new CEO Marissa Mayer. The same day Yahoo! announced her placement, Mayer announced she was six months pregnant. And the next day, her first day on the job, there were all kinds of unkind and judgmental things stated about her as a person, as a professional and as a mother.

A article by Francine McKenna, “Marissa Mayer’s Pregnancy: What Does Yahoo! Have to Disclose?”, addressed the requirement of a publically traded company to disclose the health information of their CEO’s. McKenna tried to connect Steve Jobs having cancer and Marissa Mayer being pregnant!  I understand that giving birth is the most physically taxing experience a woman will go through. But to equate pregnancy to a disease?  Come on!

And employment law is on the side of Mayer – an employer can’t ask, nor does a woman have to disclose, whether she’s pregnant or plans to become pregnant. So, why such a stink about whether Yahoo! should have disclosed her pregnancy when they hired her? Isn’t it a personal matter for Mayer to share if she wants to? And according to Mayer, she did share it – or her growing belly shared it for her - and the Yahoo! board did not seem “concerned”.  Well done Yahoo! It’s apparent that others not even connected to the company are more concerned about her pregnancy than the Yahoo! board is.

McKenna also cited data from the March of Dimes about the age of Mayer, 37, and that her pregnancy is more risky than for younger women.  And she questioned Mayer’s statements released this week that she plans to take a few weeks of maternity leave and stay connected to work during that time.

Do you hear the sincerity in McKenna’s closing statement?  “So, congratulations on everything, Ms. Mayer!  I’ll pray for the best – for you, your baby and the long-suffering Yahoo! shareholders.”

Wow! Another example of how far the United States has NOT come in respecting working women and maternity leave (since we are the only industrialized nation that does not mandate paid maternity leave).  To insinuate that Mayer can’t do her job because she’s having a baby shows such little respect for an incredibly capable woman.

Now, I am a woman who gave birth over the age of 37 and I did have a complicated birth, but most women in the same age group have no trouble at all. I happen to work for a company who gave me an extended maternity leave so I could care for my daughter up to and through her open-heart surgery to repair her heart defect – a total of 5 months! Many women are not that fortunate and lose their jobs if they don’t return to work by the end of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave that is required by the government.

At the same time this debate fired up last week, my colleague wrote a blog post about breastfeeding moms who work. She discussed the stigma many have around the act, and the requirement of employers, who are often falling short, to provide a clean, private place for women to express their milk during the work day while away from their child.

I’m not even going to go into all the personal attacks and criticisms from other women and mothers  after hearing of Mayer’s plans to return to work a few weeks after giving birth. How quickly we tear each other down and pass judgment.

I’m impressed with Yahoo!’s decision to hire an intelligent, successful woman as their new CEO as she also prepares to give birth to her child. I hate to think about all the other company boards out there who would dismiss her out of hand because of her pregnancy, which as we know, is unethical and illegal!

We still have a long way to go in this country in regard to attitudes toward working moms, maternity leave and policies and accommodations for breastfeeding moms. But Marissa Mayer is paving the way for more women to achieve great things professionally and be respected by their employers even when they have a “bump”.

Post written by HRmarketer staff member, Jocelyn Goodman Cook. 

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