Commentary: Yes, she can do it all

Marissa Mayer

It started with a blog post. Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of global technology company Yahoo Inc., recently announced on her Tumblr that she is pregnant with identical twin girls.

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer

And then the media frenzy began. Seemingly every news outlet in the U.S. was reporting on Mayer’s pregnancy as front page news.

Seeing this, I thought: 1) Why is this breaking news? 2) Would this be a news story if a male executive were adding to his family?

After all, this isn’t the Wausau native’s first foray into parenthood. She has a three-year-old son, and her first pregnancy was met with just as much scrutiny: How will she juggle leading a major corporation and becoming a mother? How much time will she take for maternity leave?

Mayer explains in the post that she was surprised by the twins part, that she plans to take the same short maternity leave as with her last pregnancy and will work from home throughout, and that the company will be just fine while she takes time away.

Kudos to Mayer for sharing so much of her personal life with the world. But would a male CEO feel the need to answer the same questions? Or feel similar pressure to miss as little work as possible following a major medical event and life change—for example, a heart attack?

“Moving forward, there will be a lot to do for both my family and for Yahoo; both will require hard work and thoughtful prioritization,” Mayer said in the post. “However, I’m extremely energized by and dedicated to both my family and Yahoo and will do all that is necessary and more to help both thrive. The future looks extremely bright on both fronts.”

Mayer’s words ring true. It is possible to both have a child (or several) and be a working professional by planning carefully. Both men and women play a part in raising a child, and both are valuable in the workplace.

Women of a certain age are asked frequently about their family plans. But those choices—whether they return to the traditional workplace, how long they take for maternity leave, how many children they have—are theirs alone.

Instead of scrutinizing Mayer’s choices and asking why she’s trying to be happy in both her personal and professional lives, we should be cheering her on and respecting her privacy.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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