The State of Maternity Leave: A Bigger Issue than Marissa Mayer’s Announcement

Best Practices, Employer, HR, Maren Hogan

I had my kids early. Like very, very early. So at this point in my career, my troubles center more around teaching my eldest to drive and explaining the inner workings of the pituitary gland. YAY! My youngest child is nine. Here is a list of things I don’t have to worry about:

  • SIDS
  • Daycare
  • Where to pump milk at work
  • Where the daggum pacifier went
  • Pregnancy Bacne
  • Maternity Leave (FMLA)

It’s the last bit that I want to talk about today. Because patron saint of all working women who-are-also-pretty-but-not-too-sexy-and-can-make-babies-when-and-where-they-choose, alternately beleaguered and venerated CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer is preggers.

And errrybody got something to say about it. In fact, friend and colleague Jessica Miller Merrell claims that Mayer’s decision to announce her pregnancy and maternity leave to the public set women’s equality back ten years. (The reason being Zuck and other dudes didn’t choose to do the same). For Jessica, the reason Mayer had to announce the length of her maternity leave at all is an issue.

Carolyn Fairchild also conveyed betrayal at Mayer’s announcement. Her beef, which she outlines, in a piece called: How Marissa Mayer’s Maternity Decision Affects Young Women Whether She Wants it to or Not, is more with the example Mayer conveyed on her Tumblr announcement, both in tone and in words:

Fair enough. But Mayer’s failure to acknowledge that such a short maternity leave is uncommon for working women is where I think she went wrong.

….In her statement on Tumblr, Mayer made the two-week leave seem normal. “Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout,” she writes. This sends a signal to her colleagues as well as expecting moms everywhere that if you also have a “healthy and uncomplicated” pregnancy, two weeks away is just fine….

At the time of this writing, even local news stations are getting in on the action, asking LITERALLY women on the street in San Francisco and Marin Country how they feel about Mayer’s decision, announcement, uterus I guess?

This is nothing new. Mayer cannot win for losing, simply because she has ladyparts. She is a hard-working, highly driven person who is capable of producing children. The fact that she happens to be a woman in a position of power seems to give everyone the right to judge practically every decision she makes, from the decision to take on an embattled Yahoo, to her choice to have children (more than one!), her decision to take the maternity leave of her choosing and the tone of her Tumblr when she lets (prolly her board members mostly you guys) everyone know. She got it in 2012, and she’s getting it now. She got lambasted when she had her first kid and she was eviscerated when she posed for freakin’ Vogue. (Here she even gets in trouble for changing her mind.)

Now, I’m not having any more kiddos but if I did, no one would care how I announced it or how long of leave I took (except the people to whom I owe allegiance, my family and my employees).

About two-thirds of U.S. women are employed during pregnancy and about 70 percent of them report taking some time off, according to most recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The average maternity leave in the U.S. is about 10 weeks, but about half of new moms took at least five weeks, with about a quarter taking nine weeks or more.
Instead of endlessly talking about what one rich white lady is choosing out of a plethora of choices both bestowed upon her and that she has made for herself with hard work and dedication, how about we fight for more than 12 unpaid weeks of leave only available to full-time, salaried workers in our country? How bout that?


 

photo credit: Marissa Mayer via photopin (license)

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