By now, you’ve probably heard about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting at her company. I’m not here to debate whether or not telecommuting is a good idea. I see both sides of the argument. I absolutely LOVE being able to work from home. It allows to me take care of business, my family and my home all at the same time. It saves me time and money because I don’t have to commute for hours, pay for dry cleaning or pay through the nose for daycare. Working from home makes me extremely happy. I wish everyone could enjoy the ease and convenience of my situation.
But I often miss the camaraderie of an office, and the creative collaboration that comes from being around other adults every day. I think face time is important. I think emails and instant messages aren’t always the best method of communication. And I think for some people, spending too much time away from the office or the boss can lead to lessened production and laziness.
Marissa Mayer is the CEO. She can do whatever the heck she likes. I certainly take issue with her decisions. I think her bragging about taking only two weeks maternity leave is unhealthy and sets a horrible precedent. I think inflexibility and blanket policies are stupid, especially for a large and diverse company like Yahoo!. And I think putting the well-being of shareholders over the well-being of employees is a shortsighted and greedy move.
But I don’t run a Fortune 500 company, so I don’t get to spout off too much about Mayer’s business decisions.
What I will spout off about, though, is her actions as a woman. Specifically, how hypocritical she is. And Mayer is by no means alone in this anti-working woman hypocrisy.
I find it abhorrent when women in power, who make tons of money, and who can afford all the nannies and chefs and personal assistants they need, make decisions that adversely affect the ability for other working women to care for their families and enjoy a work/life balance. That disgusts me.
Did you know that Marissa Mayer built a nursery beside her office? It’s fine for her employees to spend many hours each day away from their young children, but she doesn’t have to. And working around their kids while at home might be a distraction for everyone else, but not for her, huh?
Another hypocritical female leader is Arianna Huffington. Let’s not even talk about how she doesn’t pay most of her writers. Instead, let’s talk about her no-books policy. She makes employees who get a book deal either leave their job or take a sabbatical. Book deals are important to writers. They lend credibility and enhance the writer’s name and notoriety. They bring press and attention to the writer’s regular outlets. And they also boost a writer’s pay to a decent level. Getting a book deal is an excellent career move, but it will get you fired by Arianna Huffington. Who, by the way, has plenty of book deals of her own. Ironic, no?
And then there’s Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. I want to like her. I really do. I agree with so many of her ideas. I think she’s possibly on to something with her “Lean In” program. But my gosh, the woman seems to be tone deaf. She sees things from a very myopic world view, one that includes tons of money and all the right connections. She doesn’t acknowledge that so many woman struggle with the basics, from health care to child care to simply getting dinner on the table. How are these women supposed to be the superheroes she expects them to be? And how does she expect them to succeed when other women — like Mayer and Huffington — are stomping on their fingers as they try to climb the ladder?
This type of working woman hypocrisy doesn’t just happen among the super wealthy or at huge companies, though. I’ve unfortunately worked with and for women just like Mayer, Huffington and Sandberg. If I asked for a couple of hours off to attend a school play, you’d think I’d asked one of them to donate both her kidneys to me. What a disruption! How dare I think I could spend time with my kids! And I’d have to work on the weekend to make up for the lost time! But when they wanted to see a school play, or take care of an ailing parent, or just take a mental health day? No big deal. They could do whatever they liked. What was good for the queen goose was not good for the other geese (not gander — that’s a male goose!).
These women were very different when it came to career level, income and background. Some of them were arrogant, others clueless, and some just plain mean. But they had a couple of things in common. The workplaces they managed were unhappy places, with low employee morale. Any woman with a brain or ambitions of her own got out of there as quickly as possible. Another common denominator was power. They had it. Others didn’t. And at times, they wielded their powers in ways that hurt the others, all while doing whatever they liked and taking liberties not afforded to everyone.
Look, I get that working your way to the top comes with benefits. A better paycheck. More autonomy. Decision-making powers. Those things are great and should be enjoyed. But they shouldn’t be rubbed in other people’s faces. That’s just tacky. Also, there are certain benefits that all decent employees, at any level, should enjoy. Meaningful maternity leave, paid sick leave, affordable child care and a decent living wage are a few.
I know I sound like a broken record, but I wholeheartedly believe that women, especially those in high positions, should do everything they can to mentor, support and ease the burden on other women. They should be helping us, not hurting us.
This latest Marissa Mayer controversy isn’t about telecommuting. It’s not about flexible work schedules or shareholders or boards of directors. Instead, it’s about larger issues of inequality and gender roles. It’s about the haves versus the have-nots. And at its deepest roots, it’s about power.
And a great leader doesn’t try to seize, hoard or abuse power. Rather, a great leader works to spread power, and also ensure that those under her are poised to rise to their own positions of power.
Other opinions from the blogosphere:
- The Yahoo Fiasco and Moms Helping Moms from Nice Girl Notes
- Sorry, But Marissa Mayer Made a Good Call from MamaDweeb
- Marissa Mayer, I Disagree from Great Thoughts
- “Stop Working from Home,” says Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer from Everyday Family
- Yahoo! Employees Available for Hire at Home Office Hustle
- Feminism Stereotypes & Marissa Mayer from Danielle Elwood