03/05/2013 10:41 am ET Updated May 05, 2013

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Is in a Lose-Lose Battle


Written by Leslie Kennedy for

Marissa Mayer is in a lose-lose battle. The Yahoo! CEO notoriously took a two-week maternity leave, calling into question her commitment or even her desire for a work-life balance. Many women who looked at the pregnant CEO of the Internet powerhouse were left wondering why someone who had the potential to be an amazing advocate or example to working women, instead ostensibly said "children shouldn't impact time spent at work any more than a bad case of the flu."

As a woman I understand that my role as a parent shouldn't factor into the way I'm viewed professionally. But also, as a women, I think it is imperative that our commitments to our family be respected and demanded.

Last week, Mayer called to an end the ability for employees to telecommute.

Said Mayer: "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."

Related: Federal Court: Employers Must Try to Accommodate Child Care Needs of Staff

According to Mayer, speed and quality of work are sacrificed by accommodating schedules. According to a wack of studies listed conveniently on, the reality is something quite different. In fact, flex schedules and telecommuting have been a great step forward in the work force, recognizing the various needs of people's lives outside the office.

Mayer's recent policy change is reflective of a corporate culture that espouses that your first and only commitment should be to your job.

Thing is, no one exists in a vacuum and being chained to a desk will negatively affect morale and thus drive and productivity. That's not my opinion. That's fact.

The latest news out of Yahoo! is that Mayer is setting up a nursery in her office so that she can be close to her child. This would call into question the notion that she doesn't think work-life balance is important, but for the fact she isn't offering this as an option to any other employees. What she is doing, instead, is accommodating her own life while taking away the one accommodation her employees have to make their own personal situations easier.

Anyone who has read anything about Marissa Mayer has been left with the impression that she's a cold fish who is a calculating, heartless, career-bent CEO. But, in fairness, how much does the public know, ask or care about male CEOs and their work-life balance? What Mayer is doing, though maybe too well, is separating the voyeuristic interest in her private life by making little mention of it. The sad but all too true reality is that for women to be taken seriously in business they can't talk about their families. They need to be seen as focused on their job and only their job. Men don't have those same challenges. Not talking about their children doesn't make them cold. It makes them business minded. No questions asked. No judgement.

Marissa Mayer has been quoted as saying her priorities are "God, family and Yahoo! -- in that order." How her personal life philosophy falls into what can only be described as a major step backwards in the workplace is beyond me. It's either a classic case of 'do as I say but not as I do' or she's selling a life philosophy but living another.

Anyway you slice it, Mayer is adding to the feeding frenzy of interest into intricacies of her private life by making it less possible for her thousands of employees to live theirs the same way before she took the helm.

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