How long was your maternity leave? A year, six months? Well, well, you are obviously never going to be CEO material, much less one fronting a global brand name. Maternity leave, especially anything for longer than two weeks, would probably be considered a ‘girl’s blouse’ in the machofication world of pregnancy as evidenced by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. She has announced that she will be taking ‘limited maternity’ leave after she has given birth to her twins who are due in December.
While Mayer hasn’t defined ‘limited maternity’ the yardstick to go by is the two weeks that she took off after having her first child in 2012. The pop-them-out and life as normal brigade must be cheering at having a high profile cheerleader. For me, her announcement represents the tedium of yet another high-profile female boss vowing to take ‘limited maternity’ leave because life must go on as usual in much in the same way that the business world worships at the altar of BAU (business as usual). In fact, Mayer uses words like ‘hard work’ and ‘thoughtful prioritization’ to describe how she will balance life post-birth. Reading her statement reminded me of the HBR (Harvard Business Review) management books that offer similar advice advice for the workplace but applying these to babies?
What annoys me is the reductive messages being sent out about maternal health care. Maternity leave exists for a reason and this is to do with the mother’s own health and the care of the baby. Blimey! After two weeks of having my daughter I was still not in a fit state to be able to distinguish between night and day, let alone juggle the work of the deregulation of the telecommunications industry (my job at that time) AND the every 8 seconds demands of a newborn. I don’t think I was being a wally either.
Mayer’s decision backs up my theory that women in boardrooms/high positions hardly ever break new ground for the rest of ordinary women folk. In fact, by Mayer’s own admission, she does not consider herself to be a feminist. Contrast this with Hilary Clinton, who calls herself a feminist, who would leave the office at 5pm to send a signal to her staff that a work/life balance was crucial to their wellbeing. Who would you rather be working for?