Pregnant CEOs Are BIG News

You’ve likely heard Yahoo’s big news — the company has a new CEO, 37-year-old Marissa Mayer, former Google executive, and ta-da, she’s pregnant.

You may be wondering, so what? Women have babies all the time, even executive women. If you are wondering that, I commend you. But the sheer fact that her selection is such big news gives some credence to the fact that A, female CEOs are thin on the ground, and B, pregnant CEOs who are also young and pretty are even less so.

Reuters posted a news item with the headline: Yahoo Q2 2012: CEO Marissa Mayer Sits Out Phone Call to Investors on First Day of Job.

My question is, would they have pointed that fact out if she were a man?

To my understanding, presenting quarterly earnings is a very intentional, prepared in advance type of activity that a company’s due diligence team and CFO have to go through. They present to the shareholders in a way that minimizes and protects against negative perceptions so stock price isn’t adversely affected.

All of that preparation would have been done long before Mayer had access to the financial information discussed. Also, as far as I’m aware, CEOs aren’t always on analyst calls; their presence isn’t mandatory. Yahoo’s former interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, who will remain in the company in a different role, didn’t attend the call either. Some companies just have the CFO handle them. Granted, those companies aren’t Yahoo, but something’s fishy about all of this.

I’m a member of the media, so I understand employing headline trickery to get people’s attention, but I detect more than a little snark in the article. For instance, the piece says Yahoo’s CFO Tim “Morse said on the call that Yahoo wanted to give Mayer ‘time to get acclimated’ with the company before providing forward guidance for the year.”

Why is “time to get acclimated” emphasized like that? The woman was on the job for a whopping 24 hours before the call went through. Is it unreasonable to think that she might need to learn a few things before she starts running off at the mouth?

During the next few months it will be as interesting to watch how the media treats Mayer as it will be to see how she performs in her new role. Between the belly and the other female attributes, not to mention a company in serious need of revitalization, she’s got her work cut out for her. Time will tell, however, whether the business community, and the media, will play fair with her impending motherhood and her business performance.