HR Insights, HR News & Trends

Five Questions About Yahoo’s New, Pregnant CEO

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Well, now there’s a twist on the Yahoo-poaching-from-Google story: Marissa Mayer is having a baby.

Kudos to Yahoo for hiring a pregnant woman to do the CEO job. It does raise a few questions in my mind however, including:

  1. Bringing a baby to the office? According to one writer on CBS Money Watch, “You can bring a baby to an office, and you can bring work home. There is no conflict.” That sounds good, but it’s news to me. Many employers don’t want babies in and out of the office. If Mayer can bring hers – which again, I’m all for – will other employees be able to, too?
  2. What if a guy brings in his child? Let’s assume we did live in the fantasy world of No. 1 above. If a man brings a baby to work one day, or has a baby cry during a phone call … will Yahoo think he’s somehow not as dedicated a worker as his young, single counterparts?
  3. Would the typical prospective employer hire a pregnant woman? Mayer felt OK about telling her prospective employer she was pregnant. But she had a job, and is in no danger of not having jobs in the future. How comfortable do other employees feel? At least one company president tells me his employee was scared out of her mind to tell him she’s made up her mind and she’s keeping her baby.
  4. What is a headhunter’s obligation? What should a headhunter disclose to an employer if they know a job candidate they’re presenting to the employer is pregnant? I mean, the politically and legally correct answer may be that the employer won’t mind or shouldn’t mind – but the reality is, will the employer be irked to find the new employee goes on leave a few months after being hired, perhaps never to come back?
  5. Is this just proof of how everything is easier if you’re a CEO? I’m sure you’ll hear some bloggers and “experts” say that this is proof that if you can be a CEO and pregnant, you can be anything and pregnant. (How about a member of Congress?) That sounds good, but isn’t it in some ways easier to be a pregnant CEO than a pregnant lower-level employee? Maybe you have more work, but you also have more money to have people help out with household chores, shopping, and so on; more nannies; more people to give rides; and, most of all, more leverage with your employer.

There are always those folks who say that America needs more laws governing pregnancy and employment – a year of federally-mandated, paid time off, for example. But more regulations cause a deadly, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot cycle where employers are less eager to hire the regulated job candidates (in this case, pregnant women; in other cases, for example, people with disabilities) in the first place.

Perhaps what we need are more CEOs like Marissa Mayer – so long as they give a little thought to the five questions above.

Todd Raphael is Editor-in-Chief of ERE.net , and he works on ERE's conferences, the ERE website, the ERE daily email newsletter, the ERE awards, and more. Contact him at todd@ere.net.