By obvious measures, the hiring of Marissa Mayer from Google to head Yahoo was encouraging news about women participating the workforce in top leadership positions.
Now there are 19 Fortune 500 firms lead by female CEOs, up from 12 companies in 2011. Women are inching closer to 4 percent representation at the top executive level. (Um, yay?) And, the enlightened Yahoo board had no qualms about Mayer's pregnancy, which she disclosed during the search process.
But the less obvious signals that little has changed in workplace culture.
In an interview published yesterday, Mayer revealed a telling attitude about how one expects to parent while working at this level.
Mayer announced her pregnancy in a Fortune article and said:
"My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I'll work throughout it."
Yes, Ms. Mayer, you will be working through it, though perhaps not in the manner you imagine. Granted, this is her first child, and she may not understand the extent to which a newborn disrupts our best-laid plans. But is a few weeks off after giving birth the best that can be expected by a chief executive?
How many women, who are not forced by economics and a lack of workplace protection, would willingly choose to leave a newborn a few weeks after giving birth? Is that in the best interest of the mother or the baby? And, what does that say about women who refuse to rush back into the paid labor force?
Her comments reminded me of a conversation I had with our deputy managing editor at the newspaper shortly before my first child was born. I planned a yearlong leave of absence, 9 months of which were unpaid. In my mind, I had lined up a long list of projects I wanted to complete in this uninterrupted stretch of time off.
I said to the editor: It will be the first time I won't be working for so long.
The editor raised an eyebrow and smiled before responding: "Oh, I think you'll be working, all right."
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