This day will be remembered. Marissa Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo CEO, by a board that is fully aware of her pregnancy is a big win for women in workplaces around the world.
That the board came out to clearly say that the pregnancy wasn’t even a consideration in their decision to hire her, also speaks volumes for a tech industry that is wanting to change and is willing to bet on talent with all its might.
Mayer joins Sheryl Sandberg COO, Facebook, Meg Whitman CEO HP and Virginia Rometty, head of IBM as one of the few women in the upper rungs of the tech industry.
Given that she will have her baby soon after taking over Yahoo, which while has no relation to her ability as CEO, draws attention to what has always been a hotly debated topic. Will a woman take three weeks, three months or three years and what is the price she will pay?
Jack Welch had famously said in a Wall Street Journal conference that there was “no such thing as work-life balance, there are only work-life choices.” Incidentally, in that same conference he also trashed mentoring programs and support groups that “treat women like victims”. This was followed by a slew of reactions from women CEOs who called him incredibly out of touch and some who grudgingly agreed.
Mayer resigned on Monday from her post as VP, Google (a company where she was the first woman hire) and took over as CEO at Yahoo on Tuesday. She has been a vocal representative of women in tech and has always held that there are great women in the valley, but hardly enough.
Mayer has been credited with Google’s ‘simple’ design approach – homepage, mail, et al. Mayer will however have a herculean task of turning around a gigantic tech company that is currently third in search market share.
What is also interesting is that Yahoo has gone with a product-centric CEO, rather than a sales or content-centric choice. The New York Times, quotes as her as saying that she intends to focus on yahoo’s strengths – Finance, email, and sports.
After this hire, we strongly suspect that not just in Silicon Valley but all over America and slowly elsewhere women might start making arguments for treating pregnancy differently. We know we will.