Moms and the Work Place

Joanne Bamberger challenges recent claims by the Women of Yahoo and Facebook:

What do you think?

If you want to see markers of female empowerment, just look at two of the tech industry’s biggest stars. Marissa Mayer signed on as CEO of Yahoo while pregnant. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is casting herself as a latter-day Betty Friedan with her forthcoming book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, but whether either executive is setting a standard most working women would like is very much in doubt.

Sandberg wants to encourage working women, especially mothers, to stand up for themselves in the workplace and take seats at the leadership table. She says they need to stop making excuses and recognize that they have to make tradeoffs between work and family just as men do.

Mayer, who boasted “I only need two weeks of maternity leave,” is doing just that. In an internalpersonnel memo, obtained by journalist Kara Swisher, the company has decreed that flex time is out, face time is in and good luck finding someone who can deal with the kids when there is a half day or when your sick child needs care….

The message coming from these C-suite moms is less about empowerment and accountability than it is about guilt. Guilt for women wanting to work remotely in order to manage their lives and provide for their families. Guilt for not acting with more ambition. Guilt for daring to put their children and spouses on equal footing with their careers.

Guilt is never a good motivator. Mayer and Sandberg, even if they have good intentions, are setting back the cause of working mothers. Sandberg’s argument, that equality in the workplace just requires women to pull themselves up by the Louboutin straps (though she does acknowledge the need for a shift in national policy for working families) is just as damaging as Mayer’s office-only work proclamation that sends us back to the pre-Internet era of power suits with floppy bow ties.

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  • Meyer also has a nursery built right next to her office with a full time staff. So I am not sure she is a good example of what a working mom is to be like. And I don’t think she is a good example to the women (and men) of yahoo as to the type of parent they are allowed to be at the company.

    (By the way, only 2 to 4 percent of yahoo’s staff were regularlly distance workers.)

  • Joe Canner

    While I understand the motivation for reigning in telecommuting, it is very ironic to me that a tech company led by a working mother would adopt this policy. Surely a company like Yahoo could figure out how to maintain productivity and creativity while letting workers (of all sexes) work at home from time to time so that they can deal with family issues.

  • Rick

    I agree with Joe #2 that it does not have to be an all or nothing situation. Furthermore, since they are able to telecommute, just the savings on gas, traffic congestion, pollution, etc… is reason enough to encourage t-commuting.

  • pepy

    Neither working from home (with child in the next family/bedroom) nor from the executive office (with a nursery customized in the office next door) give any worker (male or female) the focus they probably need for either job (parenting or executive).