Melissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo (the prematurely aging search engine that has resisted the resuscitative efforts of the last two short-lived CEOs) is pregnant.
It was all over the news when Ms. Mayer was announced as the new CEO. I was thrilled that it seemed less important that she is a woman and more than she was one of the original Google employees. Luring a high-profile employee away from the super cool Google was just more of a news story than another double X chromosome CEO at Yahoo (Carol Barz was just fired in September). Awesome, I thought. Progress. Until today.
That’s because today Ms. Mayer’s pregnancy is headline news. She even mentioned in an interview with Fortune that she is going to work through her maternity leave.
If a CEO has cancer or another serious illness I see how that becomes news, especially to the share holders. A sick CEO can’t manage the helm and, well, if the next in command were as good he or she would be in command. I get that.
But pregnancy is different. First of all it’s not a disease. Many women work right up until the day they give birth. I know many surgeons who have done just that and I respectfully submit if a woman can take night call and operate on another human until she ruptures her membranes, she can run a company. While it’s possible Ms. Mayer could develop a pregnancy complication (I hope not, I wish her an uneventful pregnancy), that has not been the focus of the stories. It’s the “maternity leave.”
Obviously, Ms. Mayer is a professional business woman. If she can play in the big kids’ sandbox at Google, she knows what she’s doing. The real problem is that I can’t remember the last time there was a news story about how a male CEO could possibly manage his paternity leave? I don’t remember anyone asking Sergey Brin or Larry Page (the Google co-founders, Page is the current CEO of Google) if they would be working through their paternity leaves? Unless, of course, the news media and society are still attached to that arcane notion that the man is the breadwinner and the little woman just works until she has a baby and then stays at home. Oh, and that paternity leave doesn’t really exist or matter.
If Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy is news, then every time a male CEO’s wife/domestic partner/girlfriend gets pregnant it should also be news. Until then, female CEOs will just be a novelty and reporters are just fanning the flames of double standards.