Marissa Mayer may not be a household name yet, but as the new CEO of Yahoo, the 37-year-old ex-Googler (Xoogler) is one of the most powerful women in business. Not only has she taken on the challenge of revitalizing the dying internet behemoth, she has inadvertently taken on the new role as the face of feminism; whether she wants to or not. A few hours after she announced her decision to leave for Google for Yahoo, Mayer revealed that she was pregnant with her first child due in October. In one day, Mayer showed women all around the world that maybe they really can have it all.
The Stanford University grad was the first female engineer to join Google, became employee number 20, and rose steadily through the ranks to work closely with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Although she has been quoted as saying she was “very happy at Google” and was finally “coming into her own” there, Mayer welcomed the opportunity to talk with the board of Yahoo in January.
As a female in a male dominated field, Mayer has undoubtedly faced some form of discrimination, yet that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of only 19 female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. Although women (and men) are celebrating this achievement, there remains a question in the back of everyone’s mind: how will she fair in her new position as a high-powered executive and new mother?
In June, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote a thought provoking piece for The Atlantic in which she explains why women still cannot “have it all” despite the impact of the feminist movement. Slaughter argued that today’s society still does not adequately support women who want to work and have a family. Unlike their male counterparts, women with children are viewed as a potential cost to the company through government-mandated policies like paid maternity leave. However, a man with a family is seen in a more favorable light, often earning more money than females in similar positions because of his role as breadwinner.
Slaughter’s piece created a heated debate on the merits of the author’s argument and the consequences of society’s negative perception of working moms. For many millennials, especially women, the desire to have it all – a fulfilling job, a loving partner, and a happy family – is one that has been ingrained in us since we were young girls playing house and running our own lemonade stands. Slaughter’s editorial came as a revelation declaring what we already knew but were too afraid to admit; we are chasing the impossible dream. The proclamation came as a sigh of relief, giving women the permission to shed the burden of trying to attain that ideal.
Yet Mayer’s cheerful admission that she will continue working throughout her very short maternity leave (it will only be a few weeks in October after her son arrives) leaves us to wonder if Slaughter had it wrong. Mayer has yet to fully immerse herself in the role of Fortune 500 CEO or mommy, but she seems more than ready to take them both on, making the dream seem less impossible than ever before.