Maternity leave: Yahoooo! It’s a boy!

by | Oct 14, 2012

Marissa Mayer takes only 2 weeks maternity leave

Marissa Mayer, was appointed Yahoo's CEO in the 6th month of her pregnancy. Last week she delivered a boy and announced that her return to the office would be after only two weeks!

Her appointment has made her a role model for many professional women and has shown that pregnancy is not an obstacle for career progression. Women can have it all and not have to choose between work or family! Yahoo management has proven that they are interested in Marissa's results and how she can help them, and that pregnancy is not a barrier! Great!

But now we come to the second part of the motherhood "problem".

Maternity leave.

Marissa returning to work two weeks after giving birth, is shocking to many of us on this side of Atlantic. In Croatia we have a maternity leave entitlement of 1 year, where a woman receives from the state, her full salary for the first 6 months. During the second 6 months of maternity leave she would be paid approximately 50% of the average salary in Croatia. Returning to work so soon after the birth of the child in the context of USA culture is perhaps less surprising, when we factor in a 6 week maternity leave entitlement (or 8 weeks in the case of Caesarean section). In Croatia a woman has the right to decide how she will raise her child and when she will return to work. This is completely her decision and she doesn't have to account for her choice to anyone.

Marissa Mayer is a role model for other ambitious women and their employers. When and how she returns to work after giving birth to her baby will be important not just to Yahoo, but women and companies internationally.

Compromise solution or a presence culture?

We all know that  many career women feel that they cannot afford to take a long maternity leave for fear of being absent from the job for too long. But why can there be no compromise solution? Marissa could have stayed at home with her baby and at the same time answered emails, phone calls. With her salary she can afford all the domestic support she needs: a cook, cleaning lady and a nanny. Women have multi-tasking skills, which with a baby is very useful. Additionally as a successful manager on her way to the top, Marissa would have gained time management and delegation skills, as well as being able to successfully manage multiple projects simultaneously.

With the modern technology we have today, Marissa can be involved with work, go to the office as required and be with the baby at the same time. She is leaving her two-week old baby, working full-time and then will return home when the baby is probably sleeping. Perhaps if he wakes up in the night, her husband or nanny will take care of him, because presumably she will need to rest for work. We don't know if Marissa's husband will take paternity leave.

But it's also about Marissa's physical and mental recovery. How many women are capable of sitting in the office two weeks after delivery? If Marissa had broken her leg or had pneumonia, it seems it would be more acceptable to stay at home until full recovery, however long that might take. But if a woman takes time off after having a baby then does it suggest she is is not professional and committed enough?

Anne-Marie Slaughter in her article "Why women still can't have it all ", mentioned physical presence at work as one of the factors limiting women's careers. Being an effective leader or employee doesn't necessarily mean sitting in an office for 12 hours a day!

Marissa has implemented many changes in Yahoo, so why not workplace flexibility? Isn't this again a problem with women? We will fight for everybody except ourselves, our salary etc.? On the other hand, do we perhaps need to understand Marissa's point of view. She is the first woman in such a position. With her first child might she have acted differently?

Maybe she will allow other women in Yahoo to work from home after the birth of their children. Maybe the next pregnant CEO will work from home after delivery instead of returning directly to work.

What do you think? 

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Ivana Matic is Women in Adria CEO, a network for women entrepreneurs and corporate women in South-Eastern Europe. Women in Adria is focused on providing women with networking and personal and professional development opportunities. Ivana has a background in consulting, having worked in Big 4 for 10 years.
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