Although control rests ultimately with the editors, in the digital age, readers can now cast a vote online for the 2012 Time “Person of the Year.” Formerly known as “Man of the Year,” the most historically influential person, idea, or group designation (for good or ill) has been around since 1927, when Charles Lindbergh was designated for completing the first trans-Atlantic flight. In nearly a century however, a woman has only been featured five times.
Other potential candidates are: New York Times political statistician Nate Silver, the Mars Curiosity rover, Kim Jong Un, the Higgs Boson particle, and the Fifty Shades of Grey lady. Although we think Mayer is an admirable businesswoman and modern mother, the criteria for POTY is, “the person you think most influenced the news this year for better or worse,” not who is the most deserving for their achievements.
Mayer’s high profile appointment as CEO of Yahoo, in the heavily male tech industry, made waves even before she had child shortly after being appointed. The CEO returned to work on October 15, after a now notoriously brief maternity leave. While Mayer’s example brought the issues of adequate maternity leave and work-life balance to the forefront of the national debate, she can’t be considered truly influential until big changes are made in these areas.
Being in the news, is not the same as making news. America still remains one of the only industrialized nations with no federal paid parental leave. And, while there are now a record number of women CEOs (20) running the top US companies, they only constitute a meager 4% of the total. While may be Mayer emblematic of progress, her very exceptionality means she doesn’t have the historic weight to represent 2012.