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Marissa Mayer for President

We, at Skillcrush, salute the inimitable Marissa Mayer as she takes on her new role as CEO of Yahoo! We can’t think of a better, more fierce, and overall awesome lady to take hold of the reins. She not only has some serious experience in engineering and operations; but also excels at design and product, and has deep domain expertise in location based services and mobile. All skills that make her the perfect fit to lead Yahoo! back from the brink.

Of course, that’s not ALL we have to say about it:

Jennifer McFadden, Skillcrush COO says:

I salute Marissa for announcing her pregnancy on the same day that she announced her new role. Why? Because that took some serious Chutzpah. If you take a look at some of the questions that have been thrown out there over the past 48 hours, you’ll understand why. On top of the obvious, “How does she do it?,” there have been some doozies:

What should Yahoo! be forced to release regarding her pregnancy (as if it is a deadly disease) and how will this impact shareholder value?

How will she balance it all? Does she really understand that she’ll need more than a few weeks of maternity leave? She has no idea what’s coming!

Will she have postpartum depression? Will her son be able to latch and breastfeed?

How will she manage to hold the hopes and dreams of every working mother in the world on her shoulders as she is very publicly scrutinized in both of her new roles?

Isn’t it funny how that “How do they do it?” question is never really “How does HE do it?” This is particularly frustrating to those women, like myself, who ARE doing it. Look at Amanda Steinberg. She launched DailyWorth from her hospital bed while giving birth to her daughter! I, personally, gave birth two days before starting business school. I now run a start-up and am still phasing out of a second job—all while raising two kids. Both of us have been subjected to the range of “how do you do it?” questions. As well as the other, more nefarious ones like, “are you going to be able to manage it all? How can you leave your newborn child with someone else? Are you sure that this is the best thing for your baby? Why don’t you just defer a year or delay your launch? Are you going to be able to breastfeed? Aren’t you being just a bit selfish?”

Come on. This would never come up if it were a guy who was launching a company or starting graduate school or taking over as CEO. And, it never does come up. Because we all think we know how he does it (his wife does it!).

Thomas Jefferson managed to draft one of the single most important documents in this country’s history, all the while spending time away from his wife and six children. Do you think anyone, at any point, said, “Hey Jefferson, you sure you can handle this along with those six kids that you’ve got to nurture?” Um, no.

Or, take a look at another Jeff, Jeff Bezos. Did you know that he has four kids who were born while he was running Amazon? No? And, guess what? He runs not one, but two companies! Ever wonder how he does that and is able to be a parent at the same time? Probably not.

So, to all of you folks out there questioning whether this move is right for Marissa or right for Yahoo! or right for her baby, STOP.  Stop asking us “how do you do it?” and start acknowledging that we CAN do it. We are doing it. And, so can you.


Adda Birnir, Skillcrush CEO says:

I read that Marissa Mayer was pregnant Tuesday morning.

While in the shower after reading the news, I was totally overwhelmed with excitement or happiness or some other crazy mix of unnameable feelings. For the first time, I began to understand why anyone would ever (ahem, Kristen Bell) be crying and panicking with happiness.

Why was this so overwhelming to me? Why did this announcement mean more to me then two decades worth of evidence that women can be mothers and career women?

My facebook post pretty much says it all

I know about Hillary, and Sandra Day, and Sheryl, and the many women in my own life who gracefully balance work and family.

But I was also a freshman in college when the now infamous ‘Opt-out Revolution’ article hit newsstands. And since then, I have been the recipient of almost weekly reminders about the ticking time bomb of my fertility, the ongoing challenges of women having it all, the direct correlation between increased risk of developmental disabilities and advanced maternal age, and a whole host of fear mongering articles from well intentioned and liberal media outlets such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, and NPR.

All pieces, I might add, that I now share with my wonderful and patient boyfriend so he can understand why I am paradoxically afraid of what becoming a mother will do to my career and afraid of what will happen if I don’t get pregnant RIGHT-THIS-SECOND-OMG!!!

Here at Skillcrush I think a lot about our user’s emotional needs, in addition to their informational ones. On the surface, we are in the information/education business. But as anyone with even a little bit of familiarity with the issue of women in tech, and all the challenges therein, knows, there is much more to this than “How to program in Ruby!”

Marissa’s announcement touched me emotionally, on some level deeper than any other prior example of a woman being pregnant or being a mom and having a kick-ass career.

In all of her blonde, pregnant, woman-in-tech bad-assery, Marissa embodied my dueling lifelong desires:

To be a happy, healthy, excited mother-to-be and to be a woman who has strategically and brilliantly taken one high profile leadership role after another.

And contrary to everything I have ever read before, she did both at once.

So to anyone who says it doesn’t matter or that women having it all is old news. I say to you: it does matter, it matters to me.

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  1. Kristen S. Replied

    Hello ladies!  (And Jen!)  Your blog is terrific, and I read it regularly.

    What a coincidence that you should post this piece just one day after I read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” published in The Atlantic last week.  It’s a candid portrait of life for mothers in top jobs.  Slaughter certainly isn’t discouraging women from aiming high and sticking with their careers, but she does reveal the unavoidable truths of doing so and simultaneously trying to raise a family.  There are compromises.  And more of them for women who aren’t rich and/or don’t own their own businesses.  Marisa Mayer – god bless her! – is a ga-zillionaire, and as such, she will have a much easier time arranging her personal life to accommodate her professional life.  I thought this perspective might be valuable for the Skillcrush community to also consider.

    Keep up the good work!


  2. Ruth Ann Harnisch Replied

    YESTERDAY, July 18, noted FEMALE director Annie Sundberg 
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0839064/ whom you may know from her brilliant documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” put in a full day directing a crew in a studio in Brooklyn.
    TWO WEEKS AGO she gave birth to a daughter, who was in the adjoining studio with a calm caregiver. Oh, yeah, breastfeeding made her 15 minutes late for a preproduction phone meeting once. 
    Thunder rolled, necessitating many interruptions. Couldn’t use the air conditioning because of the ambient noise. Sweltering. End of day. Take after take interrupted by my perspiration or booming thunder. Annie was placid, focused, decisive, and able to bring me back time and time and time again to where we left off when my brain had turned to mush.
    One of the points I was trying to make but never got to because my brain would not work is THIS WORLD ISN’T FAIR BECAUSE IT DOESN’T TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT OUR BODIES ARE DIFFERENT.  We need to make it fair – so that “we are doing it’ means ALL OF US ARE DOING IT THROUGH STRUCTURES AND ATTITUDES THAT MAKE SENSE and not “a few of us are doing it against all the odds you people have set up to make it harder for us than anybody with a brain would want it to be for the sake of civilization.

  3. Elizabeth Replied

    Brava, ladies! Thank you for sharing your insights. As a mother and owner of a business, it’s heartening to have role models like Mayer and supportive voices like yours. Congrats, Adda, on your latest project!

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