Yahoo! for Marissa Mayer: The Debate Over Work-family Balance Continues

Good for Marissa Mayer for stepping up to the plate and accepting the position as Yahoo’s CEO. And good for Yahoo for making this decision with the knowledge of her pregnancy.

Marissa has a lot of things going for her: a top-notch resume as a highly respected former Google executive and a vibrant, yet polished public persona — she’s the perfect fit.

In the technology sector, where only 20% of the workforce are women, people like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are paving the way.

While she’s making headlines, so has the issue of whether women really can “have it all” when it comes to both having a successful career and family life.

In recent weeks, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” has fueled a national debate with the conversation going viral.

The article has brought to light the intense reality of how difficult it is to be a top-level executive and participate fully at home with children and a spouse, as Slaughter’s personal story poignantly shows.

Companies are investing in women as they see the value in their bottom lines. McKinsey’s “Women Matter” study shows that when women are included in leadership, the overall quality of decision-making improves.

But companies tend not to value their employees personal lives and the multiple roles women take as mother, caretaker, and spouse. When women get pregnant, or have children it’s often seen as a conflict to their career.

Or once women step away from a full-time position, it becomes increasingly more difficult to come back and reintegrate into the workforce.

Sheryl Sandberg is correct in saying that many women give up their dreams much too quickly and early. But the glaring truth is that we as a nation need to reassess the trajectory of a woman’s career path according to our needs.

Who says that one has to retire at a certain age? Or why do we expect that our entire career path has to be one big upward journey?

Shouldn’t we make room for plateaus in our lives where we’re tending to other needs outside of the workplace?

We all have different work patterns, which fit into the bigger picture of who we are. And in my experience, I have found that there are as many definitions of “having it all” as there are women.

Each of us has our own definition of what constitutes a full life. And what I have seen is that this definition also changes with age and our varying needs.

One thing that is becoming more apparent is that companies need to become more flexible in accommodating women’s natural lifecycles.

Marissa Mayer chose the path of investing a good deal of time in her career before becoming a mother, and now at 37 she’s having her first child. A good support system and an engaged partner does help.

No matter what, she has her work cut out for her being the new CEO of the struggling giant. And there is no question that this week marked another milestone for women in the workplace.

Join the conversation: What do you think needs to be done to make our workplace more supportive of the realities of modern families? What is your definition of “having it all”?

About the Author

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Angella Nazarian, president of Visionary Women, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization in Los Angeles, is a successful author and noted international speaker. She has led panels at the Milken Global Conference and served as a delegate to Women in the World. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and Cultured magazine, and her book Visionary Women will be published this fall.

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