Faculty & Leadership Blog / Faculty in the News

A Perspective on Press’ Coverage of Marissa Mayer

As an academic who studies work, family and society and has done extensive research on pregnancy in the workplace, I have had numerous thoughts over the past few months on the press’ coverage of women in the workplace starting with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic and concluding last week with the spotlight on Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, and her impending management of work and motherhood.

When I look at this in light of my research, I am frustrated by the over-emphasis on Mayer as a mother and the under-emphasis on her as a professional. Pregnancy is a critical time for a working woman as she begins to consider who she will be as a professional in light of her changing status as a parent. The press has done just what most organizations do to pregnant women, they have increased the importance of her becoming a mother and decreased the importance of her as a professional. This change in how others see view them often leads to change in how women see themselves. If women can’t envision themselves as a mother and a professional following pregnancy, they have a harder time developing the confidence to manage the challenges of motherhood and pregnancy. The press, like so many organizations, is setting Mayer up to fail.

Yet, when I look at the press coverage in light of the needs of the next generation of working parents my blood begins to boil. There has been nothing more than a perfunctory recognition that Mayer’s child has two parents –let alone potential grandparents and other special adults -to share the child care responsibility. Hilary Clinton made popular the phrase “It Takes a Village” and Michelle Obama has certainly followed this advice by having her mother, Marian Robinson, live with the family to help raise Malia and Sasha. A recent article in Time Magazine, The richer $ex, highlighted how in the next generation more families will be supported by women than men. Data from the US Bureau of Labor states that nearly 4 in 10 working wives out earn their husbands –an increase by more than 50% from 20 years ago. Women’s wage earning is changing as is their earning importance for their families. What doesn’t seem to be changing is American society’s perception of who is primarily responsible for raising our children.

As an educator, I have a responsibility for teaching future entrepreneurial leaders a different model of the relationship between work and family. As a parent, I partner with my spouse to teach our children a different model of how dual earning couples balance work and family. As a society, we need to applaud the diverse models of successfully blending work and family and of raising children. I hope the press takes up this call.

Danna N. Greenberg
Associate Professor, Organizational Behavior
Mandell Family Term Chair