Marissa Mayer is a bit of a marvel in the Tech/Business arena. At 37 years old, Mayer is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and is ranked number 14 on the 2012 Fortune Magazine list of America’s most powerful businesswoman. Appointing a then visibly pregnant Mayer’s to head Yahoo as its CEO and President was seen by many as a bold move on the part of the flailing tech company. Mayer’s announcement that she would only be taking 2 weeks off post-childbirth was received with criticism and concern by some women. But nothing has drawn quite as much criticism and concern from both women and men than Mayer’s latest move to ban Yahoo employees from working from home.
Best known for its laid back work environment and near endless stream of free cafeteria food goodies, Silicon Valley has been posited as the model for working from home. Skype, Google hangout, e-mail, text, etc., has heightened the accessibility and manageability of working from home. For years, many Yahoo employees have enjoyed the convenience and virtual freedom that comes from working from home, a benefit many in the tech arena see as par for the course. In issuing the edict to ban Yahoo employees from working from home, Mayer flipped what many in that industry feel is par for the course on its head. And make no bones about it, this decision has not only left many hopping mad, but also hopping scared.
In making this decision, a thus far mum Mayer has been accused of turning back the feminist clock, of destroying an innovative work structure, and of failing to make managers take responsibility for the “missing in action” work from home employees many feel this decision is specifically targeting. Best Buy’s recent announcement that it too would be banning work from home has further fanned the flame of concern that others would be tempted to institute a Mayer- like ban at their companies. Adding injury to what many consider an insulting decision to ban working from home is the revelation that Mayer is constructing a nursery next to her office. Yahoo’s “craftily” worded rationale for
While the ramifications of Mayer’s ban on working from home remain to be seen, what is apparent is how quickly many women jumped on Mayer’s back for this decision. Yes, many men have also criticized Mayer for this decision, most notably Sir Richard Branson, but what I’m most concerned with is the reaction of women. As women, I think we oftentimes tend to severely criticize women on the upper echelons of the business ladder whom we deem have abandoned the “movement” far more than men. We cast all of our hopes and dreams on women like Mayer and are crushed when they don’t act in the way we had envisioned. It is time to stop expecting that women act and think in one uniform way. This is not to say that I disagree with allowing employees to work from home. Depending on the position, I think working from home is something that should be explored on a broader basis. I would hope that employers, regardless of their gender, would consider allowing more employees to work from home. However, I do not think it would be fair of me to hold Marissa Mayer to a higher standard for this hope because she is a woman.
At the end of the day, Mayer has to answer to her bosses, the Yahoo shareholders. It is this collection of bosses whom is looking to Mayer to turn around a tech company that has been failing for years. I think it is fair to assume that the decision to ban Yahoo employees from working at home was not one made in a bubble. Yahoo has been suffering from a bloated employee work pool that has failed to keep up with its competitors and it is in such an environment that these sort of unpopular decisions typically creep up. The “craftily” worded memo from Yahoo’s HR department, I believe, only scratches the surface of what drove Mayer to institute this ban.
In time, Mayer may reverse this ban and start allowing Yahoo employees to work from home. Maintaining an open and respectful dialogue about this issue, I believe, will go a long way in shaping how companies will receive the decision to work from home debate. In the meantime, Mayer’s decision presents women with the unique opportunity to take stock of what they expect and why from women in top business positions.
What do you think of Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban working from home? Do you believe women in top business positions should be held to a higher/different standard than their male counterparts?