You may have heard the story recently: Marissa Mayer, one of the first Google employees, was named as the CEO of Yahoo earlier this week. At 37, she is the youngest CEO ever of a Fortune 500 company. Awesome for women and awesome for young leaders.
Awesome for women, awesome for young leaders, and awesome for Yahoo.
There seems to be a constant story in the media of how women can’t have it all: in fact, it’s on the cover of the Atlantic this month. Many people are commenting on the “lack of ambition” among young women, because they “can’t have it all.” This lack of ambition is (supposedly) why there’s a dearth of women in high positions at many companies, particularly those in the Fortune 500.
Well, as a young(ish) woman, I have to say: I don’t know these young women the media is speaking of. Yes, I will admit that I’m ambitious myself, but I’ve had this conversation more than once with similarly ambitious women and even if you don’t have children, women – and increasingly, men – understand that both are large responsibilities.
What’s really important? The recognition by Yahoo that Marissa Mayer is a smart and savvy woman who is fully capable of understanding that she will need help (nannies, family members, etc.) to take day-to-day care of her child but that this does not make her any less of a CEO – nor does it make her any less of a mother.
It also doesn’t hurt to point out that this is a discussion that is largely conducted by those who can afford to have it; many women do not have the choice of choosing to “have it all.” My mother was one of those women and in my discussions with her about this topic, she told me, quite honestly, that you have to admit you need support with child care, no matter where it comes from. (And if this comes from family members, like mine did? Your child builds great relationships with their extended family, and no one can say that’s a bad thing.)
As a young girl, having a mother who worked was a great role model for me and I think it made me as ambitious as I am. It also made some things very clear for me: I wanted a partner who recognized that my ambitions were just as important as his and who supported me in those (and vice versa). I also know that if I have children that his support, the support of my family and/or the support of a nanny is key – and it wouldn’t make me any less of a mother.
And if Marissa Mayer can turn around Yahoo? Her son will have a heck of a role model and someone he can look up to – as a mother and a CEO.