Dear Marissa Mayer, I'm glad I'm not a Yahoo!
Marissa, I want to champion you, I really do. At 37, and one of only 19 female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, I want you to succeed. Taking the reigns as CEO of Yahoo while 6 months pregnant, I was hoping you would blaze trails for working moms everywhere. But first came the stingy two week maternity leave, then the declaration that the whole baby thing was easy, and now this...turning back the clock on workplace flexibility by banning your employees to work from home. I hate to think what's next.
The truth is, if I worked for Marissa Mayer I would most likely have to leave my job. I've said previously that the most important reason I am still successfully advancing in my career with young children is flexibility (a supportive spouse and nearby grandparents are close seconds). I am fortunate that I can read academic journals, write grants, review papers, prepare class lectures and draft emails all from home. I also have leadership responsibilities to my research lab and other organizations on campus that require my presence on a regular basis - so I couldn't do my job from home full time and I wouldn't want to. I know I am fortunate that I can make the choice to work from home when I need to and this autonomy contributes in large part to my career satisfaction. There are jobs and industries where face time is crucial, I know. But in a two-career household that includes children, flexibility to work from home on occasion is key.
For those of us that don't have $117 million five-year contracts, flexible work hours are crucial to keeping all the balls in the air. Because someone still has to meet with teachers, take kids for regular physician check-ups and to the dentist. There are pancake breakfasts, school birthday parties, field trips, recitals and games to attend. (And sick days. Don't forget the sick days!) These obligations still typically fall to mom, whether working or not. While it isn't always easy, these are obligations I cannot avoid. And perhaps more importantly, these are aspects of my children's lives that I don't want to miss. On days when doctor appointments or school events are scheduled, I can maximize my time if I work from home, eliminating my commute and any unplanned distractions in the office.
As Anne-Marie Slaughter discussed in her piece in the Atlantic last summer, corporations need to go further in accommodating working parents, not backwards as companies like Yahoo and Bank of America are doing. As Slaughter extolls, the notion that face time in the office is a marker of productivity is long past. And, eliminating flexibility from the workplace affects women and men. Today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost as many men telecommute as women. Working fathers today seek a greater balance between work and home. And while men are still loathe to take advantage of policies like paternity leave even when it is available to them, flex time is something men are eager to have. Even in a traditional, male-dominated law firm like my husband works for, he has the autonomy and flexibility to work from home when I absolutely cannot.
I get it Marissa - you have a big ship to right in your new gig as top Yahoo. I know you have to make drastic moves and establish your leadership style. But can't you prove yourself and your ability to lead without setting back working families in the process? No, you didn't ask to be the poster girl for working moms. But must you separate yourself from that role to the extent that you work against us? I find it hard to believe that you will never work from home yourself. Do you not want others to have the same career-life happiness I'm sure you wish for yourself? Without hired help and the option to build a nursery next to our offices at work (really? I'm not sure I would want that luxury even if it was an option), working parents in the 99% need flexible work schedules to have at least a crack at work-life balance.
In the past year, there has been a lot of attention given to this idea of women having it all, and a national conversation on women and work is a positive step in the right direction. Marissa, I understand if you don't have the time or inclination to join the conversation, but I wish you would.
From the home office...