Saturday, July 21, 2012

Marissa Mayer: Outlier

There has been a lot of talk about Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!  A lot of the interest seemed to be in the fact that she was six months pregnant when appointed and not just that she is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company right now.  In particular, so close to the Anne-Marie Slaughter discussion about "women having it all", people wondered if she was a good example of women having it all or not.

But Ms. Mayer, you I admire greatly, has nothing to contribute to the debate except (perhaps) to act as an existence proof.  She is a 37 year old worth 300 million dollars.  I think it is fair to say that she is not going to  be unable to provide extensive child care services as well as working.  Might a bracing schedule interfere with breast feeding?  Yes, but many children are bottle fed (I am one) and did fine.  Might it interfere with seeing everything about your children?  Yes, but only in the same way that rules out a serious quest for enlightenment in a Buddhist monastery as well.  In life there are always some degree of trade-offs between activities -- none of us can do everything.

But most importantly, her career track and resources add nothing to the debate about work life balance for young women in the United States.  The normal barriers to career success are things like access to childcare and needing to balance housework.  Or with being a single mother and needing to do it all on your own.  The wealth to hire a team of housekeepers and childcare providers makes most of this far less concerning.

It is like worrying if Warren Buffet has health insurance or not.  It is pretty clear that not being insured would not be a serious barrier to Warren Buffet getting and and all treatment that he desires.  After all, he has the resources to overcome these issues.

So I think the real narrative is "lack of resources".  That being said, it turns out I am a fairly big Marissa Meyer fan and I hope that she is an amazing success in her new role.  I do think she is a good example as a businesswomen and engineer about how to climb the corporate ladder and become highly successful.

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