2008. I just gave birth to my second child and I was working from home as an Instructional Designer and Adjunct Professor. I officially transitioned to the title of full-time “Work-At-Home Mom” and I knew that’s where I was supposed to be. I took my hard earned MA from Columbia University and years of industry experience to enable a new career for myself, one where I had the flexibility to telecommute. I knew that being a WAHM was the best way for me to raise a family and still build my career. But I also knew my ambition and drive wasn’t going to stop there.
Being a working mom trying to forge a new path, I idolized women such as Cathie Black. That same year I became a WAHM, I read her book Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) and lived on her every charted word.
She was my role model not because she was a WAHM (because she wasn’t) but because she was a working mom – a powerful, smart woman who at that time was running the show at Hearst Magazines. Yes, Hearst Magazines – for women in business climbing the corporate ladder, it doesn’t really get much better than that. I read every single page of her book and went to sleep thinking about each nugget of wisdom she shared. That book quickly became words to live by, it was my bible. My lifeline. Her words were inspiring. Every chapter became more encouraging and by the end of the book I felt that I, too, could become a CEO and start my very own company.
Fast forward to 2010 and there stands Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook since 2008, another woman I admired. Sheryl could run circles around any guy in technology and write code just as well as any of them, if not even better. In an era of blogging and social networking she has been viewed as a pioneer – another powerful woman paving the way in the industry.
When I began my blog in 2009, Sheryl was one of those Harvard graduates who kept raising the bar and every headline I would read about her I wanted to gain more knowledge. She motivated me to learn as much as I could within the digital space. Sheryl is about to launch a new book entitled “Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead” which is already receiving tons of criticism and it hasn’t even been released yet. So until I read the book for myself, the jury is still out on that one…
However, fast forward one more time to 2013. And Marissa Mayer.
Need I say more?
In once quick Google search, you’re guaranteed to find tons of articles and blogs outraged at how the new Yahoo CEO has banned telecommuting beginning in June for all Yahoo employees. Yahoo – you know, the tech company – the one that sells products to businesses to use “anytime, anywhere.” Yet, with this ban, isn’t it all a bit contradictory when the company’s product is not the right fit for their own business model? Oh, the irony…
You’ll find headlines such as:
- “Marissa Mayer is Wrong: Freedom for Workers Mean Productivity for Companies”
- “4 Reasons Why Marissa Mayer’s No-At-Home-Work Policy is an Epic Fail”
- “Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has Lost the Plot”
- “Back to the Stone Age? New Yahoo CEO Bans Working from Home”
I’m sure by the time I publish this piece, so many more blogs and articles will have been written, read and shared among thousands. Because it’s just that kind of story; the kind that has sent shockwaves through the internet.
Because in the year 2013 it’s kind of hard to believe that we would be reading those headlines. In an era of the social media boom, Skype and tons of other tools and platforms that allow online streaming, web conferencing, file sharing and workers to collaborate from home at their own computers – it’s the kind of story that feels as though Marissa is simply out of touch with reality.
And to add fuel to the fire it’s also been noted that as a new mom, Marissa has paid to have a nursery built right next to her office. Pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say? What about the rest of the working moms who don’t have the luxury of affording such an opportunity? Oh right, just take away their flextime, that should really boost morale.
I may not work for Marissa Mayer but I am a working mother who has worked remotely for the past seven years. The news of this ban feels like a slap in the face for all of those who telecommute because the underlying message she is sending is that when you work from home, you aren’t as productive for the company. Actually, I couldn’t disagree more.
Some are giving her the benefit of the doubt by saying she must have good reasons for making this daring move – but for the love of God, I can’t seem to find one good reason. Especially from a leadership standpoint, not one rationale makes sense to me. If you’re looking to cut unproductive workers there are other solutions than to ban telecommuting for all – it’s just not the answer.
Whatever her intentions, I cannot side with any of it. If she’s looking to cut corners or as some say, “trim the fat” then she’s going about it all wrong. She says she wants to build community and create a productive culture in the workplace but I’m not sure what kind of culture she thinks she just started when she created this new policy.
Perhaps having some sort of benchmark or accountability in place would be a step in the right direction. Or how about demonstrating real leadership, specifically for telecommuters as a way to create a positive and productive workplace culture? This is not the kind of policy that comes from a progressive leader of a tech company in 2013.
I would love to know what Cathie Black would think about Marissa’s decision since her message has always been trying to get women to break the mold for the better – and I wonder what Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts are whose new book is about to start a national discussion for women in the workplace.
Come on ladies, let’s stay on track and keep moving forward. We’ve come this far, let’s not switch paths in mid-flight now.
I want my daughter to have as many choices as I do, if not more when she finally steps foot into the workplace – so banning telecommuting for a major tech company in 2013? Sadly, that’s not going to help get us there.