Reading the article in the Good Weekend on Saturday November 10th, 2012 about Geek Queen, Marissa Mayer raised a few questions for me. Once again the question is raised in the article about women in senior management about whether they can “have it all?” I suppose this means that is a woman is working and being a mother then she is achieving across all roles. Why is this discussion not held for the fathers who fulfill these roles? Do they have less responsibility to be a parent? Are society’s norms so rigid and entrenched that we continue to believe that women should be at home with the children and the men out running the world?
This article shouldn’t ask can she have it all rather the question should be is she making the choices she wants to make? Those choices should be across a range of roles. Mayer is the CEO of a large organization which is currently not realizing the expectations of its board, shareholders and possibly employees. As CEO of Yahoo the challenges she faces are the same as those of a man running the same business although her challenges seem to be assessed by outsiders as gender based. Her ability to perform as a CEO seems to be considered intertwined with her being a woman and more than that now a mother. Onlookers wonder how she can possibly incorporate the role of parent into her already busy and high profile work role. Is that for everybody else to ask?
The paradox in this situation appears to be that it isn’t Mayer who is analyzing this challenge. So why do so many other people feel compelled to pass judgment on how she handles the challenge? Is it tall poppy syndrome where we seek to see someone who is succeeding fail? Is it that we keep regressing to the old norm of the woman should be responsible for the parenting?
Mayer has a big job in front of her and she seems to be focused on what she wants to do. Managing the expectations of others is a requirement in the work role. This is where she has to rise to those expectations and this will be a very public role she will fulfill. Managing the expectations of others with regard to her private life is her choice. If she wants to bring other people into that arena then she will have to expect a range of opinions and probably some judgment. If she wants to make her own choices then it is important she understands her priorities and she makes choices around those. So that she is content that she is getting what she wants out of those choices. As she says in the article “ burnout happens because of resentment… that notion that I worked 100 hours last week and I couldn’t even have this thing I really wanted…”
For Mayer and for anybody (male or female) who wants to incorporate a variety of roles into their lives the most important thing is to know what your starting position is, then work out what has to be done to achieve the things you want to do and get a plan in place to make that happen. Importantly recognize that your priorities might change at different times so be ready and able to constantly reassess your situation so you can make the changes to continually feel in control of the choices you are making.