Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is abolishing the company’s work-at-home policy and ordering everyone to show up at the office.
Her decision has sparked intense and often nasty debate, with Mayer usually landing on the losing end. Many women, in particular, sound betrayed after daring to expect more from such a high-profile female boss. How could she?
I understand the special brand of heartbreak brought on by women who end up acting like the male jerks they replaced. Dashed hopes sure pack a wallop. However, I don’t feel this way about Mayer. This is no surprise coming from Mayer. It is an issue of arrogance, not gender, forged through the myopia of privilege.
Last July, I wrote a column about Mayer after she was hired at Yahoo. Initially, I was so excited to see this young, talented — and pregnant! — woman become the new face of a Fortune 500 company. Then I found this online clip of an interview with her for Makers, a series sponsored by PBS and AOL:
I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. … I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions. But I don’t … have sort of the militant drive and … the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it’s too bad, but I do think ‘feminism’ has become, in many ways, a more negative word. … There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there’s more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy.
Coincidentally, this same interview showed up again just this week in the outstanding PBS show titled Makers: Women Who Make America. The show was a feast of interviews with the grand dames of the feminist movement, and it aired just days after the Yahoo announcement. In this context, Mayer’s comments, toward the end of the show, felt like the ultimate smackdown: My success has nothing to do with you broads, OK?
So I’m not surprised that Mayer feels no obligation to look out for the working mothers at her company. I say this as a driven but nonmilitant feminist with no chip on her shoulder, unless you count that annoying bump that shows up when my bra strap is too tight.
Yes, Mayer is a woman, but her decision to change Yahoo’s policy of flexible work schedules affects men and women almost equally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly as many men as women work at home. The Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit group that tracks the changing workforce, fleshes out more of the story behind the flextime statistics.
More men — 45 percent — report work-life conflict than women, at 35 percent. The institute also reports that when employees have “a high degree of work-life fit,” almost two times as many want to stay in their current jobs; four times as many are “highly engaged at work,” and two times as many are “in excellent health.”