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Marissa Mayer Shouldn't Be Criticized for Building an Office Nursery

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MARISSA MAYER
Alamy

Can critics please give the new female CEO of Yahoo! a break? She should be applauded for bringing her baby to work!

Yahoo! CEO and new mom Marissa Mayer is unfairly under fire for building a nursery next to her office so she can bring her four-month-old son, Macallister, to the office.

The controversy erupted right now because 37-year-old Mayer has issued a new directive ending the practice of Yahoo! employees working from home.

Employees are griping that it's unfair that Mayer can bring her baby to the office, while they can't work from home regularly and take care of their own kids at the same time.

While I understand the outrage when a fairly-new CEO -- Mayer joined Yahoo! on July 16, 2012 - changes a long-standing policy, I don't think her baby nursery and the working-from-home policy should be linked.

The Sexism Began When She Did

Mayer after all, has faced sexist criticism from the moment her appointment was announced.

That was because she was five months pregnant when she took on the tough assignment of heading up the $3.94 billion revenue company.

Critics lashed out simply because she was pregnant, and they wondered how she could shoulder the responsibility of leading a major corporation while carrying and giving birth to a baby. Like women haven't handled tons of responsibility while pregnant, before.

Women, shockingly, were especially harsh.

"We all applaud her, but she's superhuman, rich, and in charge," responded Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and author of a much-discussed piece for Atlantic Monthly, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All."

Marissa Mayer isn't "really a realistic role model for hundreds of thousands of women who are trying to figure out how you make it to the top and have a family at the same time," Slaughter contended.

Men Far Outnumber Women As CEOs

Well, instead of insulting Mayer by saying she's "superhuman," and not a "realistic" role model, and criticizing her for paying for a nursery at her own expense, we SHOULD be applauding her.

She is one of only 42 female CEOs in the Fortune 1,000 biggest revenue companies. Did you get that -- 42 out of 1,000?

There are so few female CEOs of large companies, we shouldn't be slagging any of them, let alone dissing Mayer for first being pregnant, and second, for trying to be close to her baby.

Mayer took the responsibility of her position so seriously, she only took two weeks of maternity leave, and I doubt that she ever stopped actually working, except for the few hours she was giving birth.

Now, her office nursery is her solution to being on top and having a family at the same time. If Marissa were a man who wanted to be a deeply involved father to his newborn and built a nursery next to his office, wouldn't people -- especially women -- be swooning over his commitment to fatherhood?

Would A Man Be Criticized For Trying To Combine Being A CEO With Fatherhood?

Would he be pilloried for having an unfair advantage over other workers, because he was a wealthy CEO and in a power position?

I doubt it!

I don't think I've ever heard of a male CEO described as a "superhuman" in a derogatory way. Men don't criticize male CEOs for being rich and powerful; they admire them. They genuinely see them as role models.

While I realize that most female Yahoo! employees can't set up a nursery next to their desks, I also doubt most would be willing to take a mere two weeks of maternity leave like Marissa did. And would most be willing to work her unending hours, no doubt, seven days a week?

Mayer's nursery -- which, I repeat, she paid for herself -- probably is her only reasonable solution to being able to hold, nurture and possibly breastfeed her son, while also fulfilling the responsibilities of running Yahoo!

Yes, her solution isn't available to most women at most companies, but we need to accept that Mayer is in a very unique position -- she is a CEO of a huge company.

Why She's A Role Model

Mayer is not the same as most female workers and that's why she is a role model. She has reached a major leadership position through her own hard work, intelligence and achievements at the young, childbearing age of 37. Many, many women throughout the country are working toward doing the same thing.

Now, if there are going to be other Marissa Mayers -- young women promoted to CEO at major corporations, there will have to be some special concessions, like being able to bring their babies to work.

And what I don't know is whether her own experience as a new mother will lead Mayer to make arrangements for other new mothers at Yahoo! to bring their own babies to work. We'll see.

In the meantime, Mayer is doing her best to lead her company in new policies, to achieve growth, which will benefit all her employees.

So, let's -- especially women -- stop criticizing her for doing her best to have a family and a fulfilling career, as so many of us are trying to do!

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