What others see as the future of the workplace, and what parents see as a most important tool for juggling home and work, Marissa Mayer apparently sees as disposable.
The CEO of Yahoo!, who made news when she took the position last summer while five months pregnant, announced through the company's human resources arm yesterday that employees will no longer be permitted to work remotely.
"Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home," says the memo from HR director Jackie Reses, and reprinted by Kara Swisher on allthingsd.com last night. "We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together."
No. It doesn't.
It did 40 years ago, when work and home were separate realms and workers had the luxury of taking care of one at a time. More accurately, men had the ability to take care of work because they knew that women had it covered at home.
It did 20 years ago, when the tools of work were all in the office -- all the files and paperwork; the office phone, with the office number, and the cord that didn't reach beyond the cubicle wall.
I had hope for Marissa Mayer. I'd thought that while she was breaking some barriers -- becoming the youngest woman CEO ever lead a Fortune 500 company, and certainly the first to do it while pregnant -- she might take on the challenge of breaking a number of others. That she'd use her platform and her power to make Yahoo! an example of a modern family-friendly workplace. That she would embrace the thinking that new tools and technology deserve an equally new approach to where and how employees are allowed to work.
Instead she began by announcing that she would take just a two week maternity leave, which might have been all she needed, but which sent the message that this kind of macho-never-slowed-down-by-the-pesky-realities-of-life-outside-the-office was expected of everyone.
And now there's this. Rather than championing a blending of life and work , she is calling for an enforced and antiquated division. She is telling workers -- many of whom were hired with the assurance that they could work remotely -- that they'd best get their bottoms into their office chairs, or else.
Yes, there are some jobs that can not be done remotely. But a case by case approach, identifying not only which positions CAN be flexible, but also having managers work with employees on a clear plan of what's expected from those positions, makes far more sense than a blanket ban. Instead, Yahoo! is cracking down not only on those who work from home full-time, or those who need flexibility because they are parents; everyone is being warned that their lives don't matter.
"For the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy," Reses writes, "please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration."
I'd argue that it's Mayer and Yahoo! who need to use their best judgment, and, in the spirit of collaboration should come to exactly the opposite conclusion. Putting employees back into a box is not good for Yahoo!. It is not good for workers. And it is very bad business.
Earlier on HuffPost:
"Find something you're passionate about and just love. Passion is really gender-neutralizing," Marissa Mayer said on Martha Stewart's "<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SilwG6vMARI" target="_hplink">Women with Vision</a>" television series in 2011.
"Right now is a great time to be a woman in tech, but there's not enough women in tech," Mayer told a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=prXCrcV-T3M" target="_hplink">CES2012 panel hosted by CNET</a>. "[I] worry a lot of times the conversation gets really focused on what percentage of the pie is women. And the truth is, the pie isn't big enough. We're not producing enough computer scientist. We're not producing enough product designers. We need a lot more people to keep up with all of these gadgets, all of this technology, all these possibilities." Mayer also commented on the stereotypical culture within the tech world: "There's all kinds of different women who do this. You can wear ruffles, you can be a jock, and you still be a great computer scientist or a great technologist, or a great product designer."
"There's just huge growth and opportunity. [T]he fact that the technology is now so tangible in our everyday lives, I think, will inspire a lot more women to go into technology -- and I'm really heartened by that," Mayer said for the MAKERS "<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikYo_TLvLh0&list=PL060768C56BD94F3E&index=9&feature=plpp_video" target="_hplink">Women in Tech</a>" interview series in 2012.
"I consider myself incredibly lucky to be present in a moment in time when this wonderful and powerful medium, the internet, is empowering geeks -- and especially female geeks -- to express and pursue their passions," Meyer said in a 2012 acceptance speech at the Celebrating Change gala. She had just won the International Museum of Women's first-ever <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ysPF6gQRROY" target="_hplink">Innovator Award</a>.
"People ask me all the time, 'What is it like to be a woman at Google?' I'm not a women at Google; I'm a geek at Google. And being a geek is just great," she said in an interview for CNN's <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sNO1QM9UBCA" target="_hplink">"Leading Women</a>" series in 2012.
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