An Open Letter to Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo.com
I’m lending my voice to an idea exchange led by Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business on the topic of retaining and advancing women in the workforce. The idea exchange provides a platform for women to share their experiences in the workplace and ideas for how businesses can help women successfully climb all the way to the top of the corporate ladder. I figured what better way to join the conversation than by addressing Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer who’s currently the center of a frenzy of media attention for
being knocked up her new position.
Dear Mrs. Mayer,
Above all else, congratulations on your pregnancy. Coming in second place, a big, badass high five on your recent professional score with Yahoo. Your life and, let’s be honest here, your body are changing in new and challenging ways.
As I’m sure you already know, you’re journey into motherhood as a leader in the corporate world is a privileged one. You will have luxuries available to you others do not. You’re in a financial position to make certain choices your average woman can’t. I use the term loosely, though, because the privilege (well earned, I may add) which will allow you certain freedom with motherhood and work, will also make you the target of tremendous scrutiny, of the variety no one should ever have to endure as a new mother. I hope you are given the respect all women deserve to make the choices you see fit for your family and your business without being made out to be a spokesperson for anything other than your own priorities.
I’m not saying you’re off the hook on the whole women in the workforce front. You do have a responsibility to women to set an example. Here’s the thing you need to remember – YOU personally do not have to be the example. Your style of mothering, your choices as a mother are not the thing everyone should be taking notice of because those are deeply personal. The most important example you will provide is the corporate culture you foster within your company. How you choose to listen and respond to the women in your company, the policies you introduce, the programs you build, the partnerships you create, how you pave the road for the Marissa Mayers of tomorrow.
You are in a unique position to influence corporate culture in America not by the choices you make as a mother but by the choices you make as a leader.
I’m working with Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business on an idea exchange amongst women who are or have been in the workforce. We are sharing ideas on how to make corporate culture more conducive to keeping women on a leadership path. Because you aren’t receiving enough unwarranted advice, here are some of the ideas being shared in that space and of my own concoction.
Food for thought but hopefully fuel for action…
- Select willing female leaders in your company and assign them as sponsors to women earlier on in their careers. As participant Christine points out “sponsoring is more than just offering advice – but rather being strategically engaged, actively advocating and opening doors to… opportunities”.
- Provide extended paid leave and job security options for parents. Create policy which prioritizes your employees values along with their professional ambitions. Project participant, Gillian, even suggested a leave swap bank which allows for employees to donate their time to employees who need it.
- Go beyond the culture you create with your employees and make Yahoo a name synonymous with addressing women’s needs. Like Forbes recently suggested, it’s the perfect time to acquire or partner “with properties specifically relevant to women, like Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, Gilt Groupe, BabyCenter, Oprah, People, Etsy, Ellen Degeneres, Martha Stewart (or BritMorin.com).”
- Make alternative work schedules the norm. While this impacts both men and women, it becomes a tremendous aiding factor for women juggling motherhood and a career. Or for father’s who choose to take on a bigger portion of the care giving responsibilities. As idea exchange member Melanie points out, it’s as much about family as it is about moms.
- Introduce leadership development early on in a woman’s career. Invest in them before they get to the top and before they get off the leadership track.
Corporate culture in America needs a swift kick in the pants to make female leadership a priority. I don’t have expectations that one woman will make all the necessary decisions to bring into fruition the paradigm shift that’s needed. But knowing the road you’ve traveled to get to where you are, I know you are the kind of leader the corporate world will listen to. So be the mother you want to be for your child. In a perfect world, no one would pay any mind to the choices you make as a parent. I haven’t given one thought to the parenting choices of male leaders of any Fortune 5000. I ask you to consider being the leader you need to be for women today and tomorrow. While it may sound like a lofty and idealistic request, I believe putting women at the fore front of your priorities in business can only prove profitable – professionally and personally.
In closing, Mrs. Mayer, I invite you over to the idea exchange hosted by Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business – join the conversation, share what helped get you to where you’re at or just test drive some of the ideas. Thank you, ever so much, for reading one more blog post on your recent success.
After my first daughter was born, I stayed in corporate America because I was allowed a flexible schedule which made me feel valued as both an employee and as a mother. Without the alternative schedule, I doubt I would have stayed. What do you think corporate America should be doing to help mothers juggle a career and motherhood?
If you’re passionate about the topic, I urge you to head over to the idea exchange I mentioned above. Get involved, share your ideas and your experience. Help Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business bring the best ideas to the White House Council on Women and Girls and to CEOs from America’s largest corporations.
This sponsored post is part of a campaign presented by The Mission List. All opinions are my own.
Carla Molina is a writer with a fierce curiosity and a deep desire to inspire people. She studied philosophy in college and credits it with giving her idea-itis (or being a perpetual state of brainstorming). Carla loves to go to the movies, is on a mission to read 2 books a week for the rest of her life (give or take) and adores hoop earrings. Previously a Latina magazine blogger and a part of the team who launched El Tiki Tiki, Carla is currently preparing to launch some very exciting projects later this year; keep up with her at her personal blog, All of Me Now, to see what she’s got brewing.