Feminists were positively giddy when Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo. You see, Mayer was 7 months pregnant at the time and was about to become the world’s first working-mother-of-an-infant CEO.
As you know, feminist dreams of combining motherhood with career advancement depend, to some part, on flex time and telecommuting. (It was part of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s vision of a brave new gender-neutered world.) In the dreamworld, a mother who works from home and defines her own schedule can have a successful career and be a parent at the same time.
Naturally, the media has been awash with studies showing that flex time and telecommuting are the wave of the future and that employees who avail themselves of these options are happier, healthier and more productive.
Or, so it seemed, until a couple of weeks ago when Marissa Mayer sent shock waves through the matriarchy. Then Yahoo's HR department sent out a memo decreeing that beginning in June Yahoo workers will be required to show up, to be present, to be in their offices and to interact with their colleagues.
The memo lays out the case against telecommuting andflextime as well as anyone has. Here is the text:
Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productive, efficient and fun.
With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.
To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.
Why would anyone be shocked to see a CEO making decisions as a CEO, not as a feminist revolutionary? Marissa Mayer works for the Yahoo shareholders; she is charged with keeping her company profitable so that its employees will continue to have jobs. Only in the twisted minds of ideological zealots is such behavior unacceptable.
Speaking for movement feminists Lisa Belkin was outraged:
I had hope for Marissa Mayer. I'd thought that while she was breaking some barriers -- becoming theyoungest woman CEO ever lead a Fortune 500 company, and certainly the first to do it while pregnant -- she might take on the challenge of breaking a number of others. That she'd use her platform and her power to make Yahoo! an example of a modern family-friendly workplace. That she would embrace the thinking that new tools and technology deserve an equally new approach to where and how employees are allowed to work.
Instead she began by announcing that she would take just a two week maternity leave, which might have been all she needed, but which sent the message that this kind of macho-never-slowed-down-by-the-pesky-realities-of-life-outside-the-office was expected of everyone.
And now there's this. Rather than championing a blending of life and work , she is calling for an enforced and antiquated division. She is telling workers -- many of whom were hired with the assurance that they could work remotely -- that they'd best get their bottoms into their office chairs, or else.
Belkin is showing us that the blather over work/life balance is really about advancing an ideology at the expense of both work and family.
Kudos to Marissa Mayer. She has shown us that being an effective CEO means doing what is best for the company, even when it discomforts the ideologues among us.