Google is my search engine of choice, like it is for most people. But I am switching to Yahoo. Why? Because it just named Marissa Mayer its new CEO. I might drop a few bucks into its stock as well. This has nothing to do with the fact she is a highly competent executive but because she is a woman. A pregnant woman.
Immediately she becomes one of a handful of female Fortune 500 CEOs, and the only one pregnant when named CEO.
Look, I am not some ultra-feminist competing for the “Mr. Sensitive Guy” title, trust me. My idea of a good time is throwing back Busch Bavarians and smoking ribs outside a college football stadium on a Saturday afternoon, not hanging out at the book club discussing 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t even know if I have feelings of a sufficient magnitude to justify any attempt to “get in touch” with them. But I am thought to be something of an expert in work-life balance issues and my “expert” opinion is that the Yahoo board of directors GETS IT! That a woman – or man, in that regard – with kids and some priorities outside of work can succeed quite well in a leadership role. In fact, the last thing today’s corporation needs is another hyperactive, fly-specking, Six Sigmatized, obsessive-compulsive with no outside interests micro-managing a team of talented executives.
Think about it. Do you perform better with your boss hanging over your shoulder? Of course not. What do you want in a leader? Someone fair, supportive and sympathetic, one who is there when you need him or her but knows the difference between a skinned knee and when you are really sick.
Sort of like a mom.
The problem with the work-life balance debate lies in its binary linguistic construction. Work and life are not opposites, they are a continuum, and having a healthy, humanistic approach to both is where top performance and life satisfaction reside. And it sure seems like Mayer and the Yahoo board understand that.
A blended work-life is just as important for men as for women, despite the implication among the commentariat that it is a women’s issue. In an ongoing, 70-year study of Harvard graduates from the 1940s – all men – researchers (now led by friend and colleague Dr. George Valliant) have found that family life and relationships, community and commitment to others are the greatest predictors of health and success over the long haul – not working 100 hour weeks.
The blogosphere, of course, has lit up like a Fourth of July fireworks show over the Mayer appointment, continuing an argument that has been simmering among professional women for some time. Public intellectual Anne Marie-Slaughter turned the simmer on HIGH a few weeks ago in her front page article in the New Republic, where she famously declared “Women Can’t Have It All.” Now, the Yahoo board’s action has conflagrated things to the millionth degree. Commentators seem equally divided between those who think this is a brave new world, and those who think she represents just another impossible ideal for women who don’t have her background, education, supportive husband and lucky timing.
I won’t weigh in today on that debate. I just say congratulations and good health, Marissa. And to the Yahoo directors, next Busch Bavarian on me.