First and foremost, I think we executive women must have a choice as to how best to manage our maternity leave. However, we must also ensure that policies and procedures are implemented in the workplace to protect new mothers and their careers. I had my first three kids while managing very stressful projects at the United Nations. I was given five months of maternity leave, but if I told you I didn’t work during that time, I would be lying. However, continuing to work during that period was my choice. I didn’t have the pressure of possibly jeopardizing my job, nor did I have to sacrifice my career, because of my decision to have kids.
The U.S. Scandal: When I returned to the U.S., I realized how dreadfully working mothers-to-be are treated in the workplace. First, there is no requirement that employers have a “Maternity Leave” policy. This is totally at the discretion of the employer. It becomes a “perk” and not a basic right. “Disability” is the term used for the maternity leave, which in some companies is as ridiculously short as 15 days. Last year, my banker still had fresh stitches when she was required to return to work after having her baby. Some women have to be super creative and sacrifice their vacation time to use for maternity leave. Most women, however, decide to take a career break, which is often equivalent to career suicide.
Marissa Mayer is an Entrepreneur: My best option, once I became a mother, was to become an entrepreneur. Therefore, I can totally understand Marissa’s choice to just take a few weeks of maternity leave and even admit that she’ll try to work during that time. I remember myself continuing to write code in the middle of labor with my fourth baby (thank God for epidural!). When it was time to push, I recall the doctor (the sweetest guy I’ve ever known, but totally scandalized by my “need to work during labor”) saying to me: “Ok! Time to turn off the laptop and focus on pushing”.
Opportunity Cost: It’s all about the right opportunity appearing at the right time. Did you see Marissa’s paycheck? Did you see the opportunity that was created for her and her family? Did you see the opportunity for all working mothers searching for a role model? I admire Marissa for taking the position. Yahoo has gained mega points for selecting a CEO in the middle of her pregnancy. Just two months before I gave birth to Nora, my company won a bid for a large project. It was our first million dollar project. Do you think I was going to say no to that opportunity? Hell no! But that decision caused me to be judged by everyone and their brother. The harshest judgments came from my own family. Mami thought I was a bad mother who had a higher priority for money than for motherhood. Some of my sisters were also pretty harsh. My mother-in-law still thinks I’m evil and all my kids, as a best-case scenario, will end up in jail! It’s a good thing Gene, the most supportive husband on the face of the earth, supported me 200%. He even took the punches most of the time, since many people wouldn’t dare confront me directly, fearing my big mouth. Gene was also chastised for not imposing the right “authority” over me, or for not earning enough money to satisfy my greed!
I really hope Marissa Mayer’s hiring at Yahoo! is the first instance of a new trend. We women have forever needed to be judged in the workplace by our competencies and experiences. We must be given every opportunity to prove that we can lead large companies. Assume that we are just as capable of taking care of our personal lives. We can handle that without turning things into a public soap opera. This trend must also lead to better policies to protect employees, particularly females, from career genocide among those who want to focus for a reasonable period of time on their kids or the care of a loved one. There are many pregnant CEOs out there, in case you didn’t know!
Oye! I wear many other hats. Let’s become BFF!
Ana La Revolucionaria can be found on LATISM
Ana La Education Geek can be found on PlazaFamilia
More Blábeando but way shorter on Twitter: AnaRC