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Maternity Leave: To take or not to take...

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, just announced her pregnancy with twins and also that she will take a shortened leave and return to work within two weeks after delivery. For this, she is being criticized for this personal decision despite the following facts: (a) she is the CEO of Yahoo, who is undergoing a huge restructuring right around the time that her twins will be born; (b) she is one of the highest paid CEO’s in the country, earning $41.2 Million a year; (c) has instituted one of the most generous maternity/paternity leave policies in corporate America, with women getting 16 weeks paid leave and men getting 8 weeks paid paternity leave; and (d) this is her personal decision and not something that will change the ability of women to take maternity leave should they want to.The brunt of the criticism against her is focused on what kind of message she is sending to women in the workplace by not taking full advantage of the maternity leave afforded to her. But, since actions speak louder than words, lets look at what she is actually saying:
  1. Knowing her role and job responsibilities in the coming months, she would like to return to work as soon as possible because she knows that it is a critical time for her company and that she is an integral part of the restructuring process.
  1. She is clearly in favor of women and men taking leave after the birth or adoption of a child as she has implemented generous leave provisions at Yahoo.
  1. She is also saying that just because you are entitled to certain benefits in the workplace doesn’t mean that you have to use them. It is unlikely to find men or women at her level who take the full advantage of their vacation or maternity leave time or who don’t work after hours and on weekends.
I have an incredible amount of respect of this woman, who through her actions has supported women in the work place but who also treats her company as though she is the owner and founder with a personal vested interest.   As many entrepreneurs will tell you, including myself, owning your own business isn’t just a job, its one of my children. I devote as much love, nurturing and attention to it as I do to my actual children (and I am a great mom!). It is unrealistic for women to believe that they can hold those types of higher-level positions and take 8/16 weeks off from the job just because they are women, especially at a critical time.While the right to take such types of leave is an important protection afforded to women, not taking it shouldn’t be a reason to criticize. Women in the work place should not be judged for these personal decisions. Rather, the only benchmark by which women should be evaluated is their work performance. All the rest is just unnecessary noise.

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