When you let down feminists you sure hear about it
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer may be one of the most powerful women in America, but in the eyes of many feminists, she’s a traitor to her gender. Forget the sisterhood; Mayer has been mercilessly attacked by women (but not men) since she took the top job last year.
The message from the femi-nasties is clear: it’s not enough that Mayer is one of only 20 female Fortune 500 CEOs, it’s her unwillingness to be a women’s rights warrior that really matters. It probably also doesn’t help that Mayer is young, beautiful and blonde.
But it’s no wonder few women want to take on top corporate roles, given that they are often judged according to a much harsher standard than is ever used for men.
When feminists (and I am proud to call myself one) spend too much time criticizing high-profile women, they often just turn them off the cause.
In the beginning, there was much girl-power yahooing when Mayer, a former executive at rival Google, was picked to lead Yahoo when she was five months pregnant.
It seemed to be a sign that the corporate world was ready to accept that mums can be senior managers too. But then things began to go sour between Mayer and her gal pal cheerleaders.
Firstly, Mayer announced her maternity leave would “be a few weeks long” and she would “work throughout it”.
I must admit I was one of those who questioned how much of a role model Mayer was at this point, worrying that her move sent the message that it’s okay for senior women to have children, as long as they don’t ever expect to see them, let alone raise them.
But it’s not as if Mayer was asking all other Yahoo employees to follow her example. Mayer then said she wasn’t a feminist, and the feminist fatwa was sealed.
Mayer didn’t say that women weren’t equal to men; in fact, she stressed she believed in equal rights. She just said she didn’t like the “militant drive” that sometimes comes with certain brands of feminism. I can sure see what she means.
Things didn’t improve for Mayer. One of her first moves was to recall hundreds of Yahoo employees who worked out of the office.
She insisted that it wasn’t a move against all those who worked from home, but a business decision made to keep “all hands on deck”. In fact, it was a smart move given that an internal audit showed many of those working from home weren’t actually doing much work for the company.
But that didn’t matter: the feminist backlash was fierce and immediate with many accusing her of betraying her supporters and selling women short.
It didn’t help that around the same time Mayer was accused of building (and paying for herself) a nursery next to her office so that she could bring her baby to work. Where were all the other nurseries for other women, feminists asked.
I’d argue that an on-site nursery makes sense, however, given the big bucks Mayer is being paid. And isn’t this a move that women should be cheering rather than jeering because it’s a sign that babies and business can mix?
In any case, if a man wanted to bring his new baby to work, he would be viewed by many as father of the year, so we shouldn’t criticize a woman for doing the same thing.
Clearly, women like Mayer can’t win: if she’d hired a 24-hour nanny and never saw her baby, she’d be attacked for that too.
In the last few days Mayer has received a $1.2 million bonus after just six months for meeting her performance goals, but that didn’t stop the bitching. The fact that Mayer has done good things such as introduced free food into the cafeterias and given staff iphones doesn’t seem to matter because they’re not specifically aimed at women.
The value of Yahoo’s stock has risen 50% since Mayer took the job, so in many ways her appointment has been a success. You wouldn’t know it, though, from the bad press.
It goes to show, as I’ve said before, that powerful females are judged as women first and leaders second, but men are just judged by how they do their job.
It’s just a pity that some of the most judgmental critiques of women come from other women who call themselves feminists.
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