When I read about Marrisa Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo’s CEO, I was impressed and ready to pop the cork on the champagne bottle. Not yet 40, obviously intelligent and (gasp), a woman. Mayer’s credentials are impressive: she graduated with honors from Stanford and majored in computer science and artificial intelligence. She also helped design Google’s home page, worked for the company for approximately 13 years and was its first female engineer.
So, what’s the problem? She’s pregnant like the rest of the 4 million women in our country. Mayers alleges Yahoo doesn’t think this will be a problem and Wall Street is praying that she is correct. Unfortunately, Mayer’s pregnancy and postpartum course will be viewed with strict scrutiny. And yes, it’s because she’s a woman.
I reflect back to my days in residency training when the number of women in a traditionally male-dominated profession began to rise. When a female ob-gyn resident became pregnant, she did not receive congratulatory remarks. Instead, the resident director would be annoyed and the rest of the residents would groan in despair because it meant that they had to assume additional on-call responsibilities to take up the slack. When my chief resident became pregnant, an unmarried female attending snidely remarked “Couldn’t you have planned it any better?” There were many nights when we would be on-call and then she would end up being monitored for preterm labor. She eventually went on maternity leave earlier than expected and I was given the unexpected and unwanted position of “acting” chief resident in my third year. I was happy for my colleague but clearly did not appreciate the additional work.
As a mother of two and former infertility patient, I can say with certainty that contrary to popular belief, there will never be an ideal time to get pregnant or adopt a child. I almost missed the boat waiting for the ideal moment that never came. In the end, when the alarm on my biological clock clanged nonstop, I took the greatest leap of faith, adopted our sons and have been blessed beyond measure.
I eventually left my job of fifteen years and have no regrets. It allowed me to bond with my sons in a manner that would have never happened had I remained on that job.
I wish Mayers the best during her pregnancy but “returning to work after a few weeks of maternity leave?” She might want to rethink that statement.