Outside of the world of celebrities, there are few women whose pregnancies would make headlines, but the close lens on Yahoo's CEO makes her a rare exception. Sharing the news late Monday evening via Tumblr (which is owned by Yahoo), Marissa Mayer said she is pregnant with twin girls, and she and her husband Zack Bogue are expecting the newest additions in December. But the announcement, while joyous, comes with a dark lining, bringing renewed attention to the serious lack of protections afforded to new parents in the United States.
According to the announcement, Mayer said the news came as a surprise since she had no family history of twins. Similar to her first pregnancy with son Macallister back in 2012, Mayer will take limited time away but will likely continue to work throughout the pregnancy. She also said Yahoo's board and executive team supported her and offered encouragement during the momentous time.
Moving forward, there will be a lot to do for both my family and for Yahoo; both will require hard work and thoughtful prioritization. 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.
Expecting mothers (and fathers) in the United States often face difficulties in providing for their families both financially and emotionally. America is the only developed country in the world to not require paid maternity leave, and new parents are subject to each individual employer's policy. While some do offer generous packages — Netflix offers up to one year paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a new kid — most businesses fall short. Sometimes a small business simply can't afford to lose an employee, but often, companies just don't take into account the time and money a parent needs in a new child's earliest days.
In 2013, Yahoo expanded its new parent policy to include eight weeks of paid leave (an additional eight weeks for mothers) along with $500 for baby items such as food and clothes. That welcomed move came nine months after Mayer gave birth to her son, but not before she stoked the ire of working mothers by prohibiting Yahoo employees from working remotely from home. While Mayer defended the decision as best practice for the company, critics took her to town for limiting women's options in balancing work and life. Mayer's decision to cut her maternity leave short — she was back in the CEO seat full time just two weeks after giving birth — was also perceived as both inspiring and damaging to working moms. ("If Marissa Mayer can do it, so can you.")
Mayer is one admirable woman. She's an ambitious working mother charged with running and modernizing the Internet giant of the '90s, and it's not fair to expect one woman to single-handedly push forward a paid maternity leave agenda. But there's a reason why her announcement went into detail about what her workload would look like during and after her pregnancy and how much support she received from her colleagues. These are inevitable questions facing soon-to-be mothers and fathers nationwide, and here's an opportunity for a very public discussion of how companies and new parents can work together to find the answers.
The personal life of a woman of Mayer's status shouldn't be so heavily scrutinized, and I'm not saying she has to be the one who carries the torch for paid maternity leave. But Mayer is soon going to be mom of two girls who, based on today's standards, face a tough road should they decide to become mothers themselves. A little kindness could go a long way.