Leaning in

Marissa Mayer explains what it took to become Yahoo’s CEO while 28 weeks pregnant

March 29, 2013
March 29, 2013

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has become a bit of a punching bag for the women’s movement: She didn’t take a maternity leave, she banned Yahoo employees from telecommuting, and she said she doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

But in a just-released piece written for the Lean In Foundation, Mayer strikes the right notes to show the world she’s no anti-feminist reactionary. The website collects positive stories of women’s ascension in the workplace and the foundation is linked to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s latest book of the same name. Mayer writes in detail about the questions she asked herself when a headhunter called about the Yahoo gig:

Could I really take the helm of Yahoo when I was 28 weeks pregnant? Even now, it sounds absolutely crazy. I considered if and how I could make it work: learning more about the role, getting words of encouragement from close friends and family, and developing a plan. I’ve always believed you can never have everything that you want, but with work and dedication, you can have the things that really matter to you. If I took the opportunity, it was clear that I would have to find a way to have time with my baby without a long maternity leave. I also knew going forward that there wouldn’t be much time beyond my job and my family for anything else. Ultimately, I decided I was fine with that, because my family and my job are what really matter to me.

The piece does not address her controversial decision to no longer allow Yahoo employees to work from home (although she does say “my appreciation has grown for all parents, especially those balancing work obligations…”). She also does not talk about the nursery she built in her office. But Mayer does finally respond to critics who chastised her for not taking a full maternity leave. When she got pregnant, she still worked at Google—and really intended to take more time off. She writes:

After 13 years of really hard work at Google, I had been envisioning a glorious six-month maternity leave. However, if I took the new job, a long leave couldn’t happen. The responsibilities were too big, and time was of the essence—it just wouldn’t be fair to the company, the employees, the board, or the shareholders for me to be in the role, but out for an extended period of time.

And so, long before Sandberg’s idea became a bestseller, Marissa Mayer leaned in.

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