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Marissa Mayer and Maternity Leave: Does it matter?

Marissa Mayer was recently announced as the new CEO of Yahoo. At the same time, she revealed that she was pregnant with her first child but that she would continue working the entire time and be back at work a few weeks after the baby arrived.

The online world has been buzzing with debates on the issue of maternity leave. I was prompted to write about it when I read a post on Ask Moxie, one of my favourite daily reads.

Millions of women around the world have children while they are employed out of the home. Many are lucky to get ‘maternity leave’, a fixed period of paid leave, after which the woman is expected to resume work. Many others, in daily-wage jobs, are not so lucky. They go back to work as soon as they can. The hungry do not have the luxury of paid leave.

In a former life, I was employed with a Public Sector company that employed about 12,000 people. The advantage of PSUs and Government-run organisations is that the benefits sometimes outweigh the costs to the employee. Paid Leave is one such benefit. In this former organisation, a woman was entitled to 3 months maternity leave. Most women, of course, tagged on all available sick leave to stay at home longer. The burden on the organisation, at such times, is huge. Not only do they have to pay an absent employee, but the existing staff has to cover their work and ensure that things go on smoothly.

Mayer’s elevation to CEO makes her “one of only 20 female CEOs among the Fortune 500 (4% of all CEOs).” And lots of people are looking up to her. How does that change ground realities, though? Women will hopefully continue to be hired for what they bring to the company. Being fertile, hopefully, should not have too much bearing on this because with the internet one can really work from anywhere. You don’t need to be at an office, in your work clothes to be part of a team. Having a baby, then, doesn’t (or shouldn’t) limit your productivity. Like Moxie says, our writing never stopped when we had children, so why should Mayer planning to go back to work in a few weeks raise eyebrows? I took on writing assignments after 3 months (admittedly, my job is not as stressful as Mayer’s, nor as well paid), but you get the gist. We all make that decision to contribute to the economy while looking after our child.

Now that I work for myself, I don’t get paid leave. I don’t get leave, period! I have no monetary benefits by not working. In fact, every hour that I do not work is a dent in my bank account. On the other hand, my child has me in abundance (except when I’m on deadline and then I turn into a grouchy cranky monster) and what fun that is!

Mayer has the luxury of staying at home or going to work in weeks or days after her baby is born. I have the luxury of staying at home, working with words and watching my child grow. We’re both lucky.

What about those who aren’t?


Fun photo by Photojojo on Flickr


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