It wasn’t too long ago that Kim Polese, co-founder and former CEO of Marimba, a Java-based business, penned this guest article for Forbes proclaiming: “Stop Comparing Female Execs and Just Let Sheryl Sandberg Do Her Job”.
The post was a direct response to Eric Jackson’s earlier article entitled: “Sheryl Sandberg is the Valley’s It Girl – Just Like Kim Polese Once Was”. Jackson’s condescending low blow was met with Polese’s intelligent critique lamenting the “lazy, stereotype-ridden articles” that harp on pervasive clichés surrounding discussions of females in leadership roles.
With recent news that Marissa Mayer has left her post at Google to take on the role of CEO at Yahoo, the story of a young, talented and skilled woman who has risen to such high ranks would have simply had the tech industry contemplating the impact this professional move would have on other industry players. Yet, the close follow up of this news with the announcement that Mayer is 6 months pregnant lead to some interesting, even more polarizing, public opinion.
In one camp, you have those who are heralding Mayer as a glass-ceiling-shattering pioneer of feminist ideals. Like fellow female executive Leslie Bradshaw, President, COO and Co-Founder of Jess3, who tweeted: “Young, female, mother-to-be. Welcome to a new era of what CEOs at Fortune 500s can be. Trailblazer @marissamayer will show us how it is done.”
And in another camp, there are those who are baffled by the choice to share this news at all, and so soon after the already impressive news of Mayer’s new role. What purpose does it really serve? There are plenty of female executives who also happen to be mothers, as this blog post, posted yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, attests: “To be sure, she’s not the only female CEO to rear kids from the corner office. In fact, many prominent women chief executives have also been mothers – like former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz (three kids), Xerox’s Ursula Burns (one kid, one stepchild) and Campbell’s Denise Morrison (two kids), the Journal previously reported.”
Perhaps the fascination with the topic lies in the fact that this particular female executive, who’ll likely occupy the tech spotlight for the foreseeable future, will be doing so while very publicly handling another major event in her personal life. I hate to think of the speculations and other “lazy, stereotype-ridden articles” this juxtaposition may fuel.
Which brings me back to the main point: In the end, does it really matter at all that she’s pregnant or should we, as Polese says, just let Mayer do her job?
Jeannette McClennan is CRO of Invoke and a veteran internet and technology executive with a distinguished history serving iconic brands and innovative start-ups alike. Prior to working with Invoke, McClennan was CEO and President of Dailymakeover.com, CMO and President of Local Matters, President at Ogilvy Interactive and was on the founding team of MapQuest.