What a Yahoo!

Silicon Valley’s most notorious working mom has ground her high heel in the proverbial diaper again.  Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer tackled the top job when five months pregnant and then (in)famously took only two weeks maternity leave.


Now she has banned her employees from telecommuting. 


Feminists and Mommy Wars luminaries have lit up newspaper columns and the blogosphere questioning the wisdom of Mayer’s weirdly retro decree, a rarity in the progressive, egalitarian, innovative tech world of companies such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Apple.


But what stuck under my fingernails was the news that Mayer herself, at her own expense, built a nursery next to her Yahoo office so she could be with her infant son without sacrificing any face time at work. 


Pretty cool solution, eh?


The problem is that Mayer’s very smart response to the pressures on her as a working parent, and the lack of high-quality, affordable daycare, is a solution that only works for one of Yahoo’s 11,500 employees. Yahoo does not offer onsite daycare for any one but Marissa Mayer. The arrogance and hypocrisy of Mayer’s mandate - “I will move my baby next door to my office so that I can juggle work and motherhood, but my company is not going to help other parents do the same” - galls me. 


One of the most demoralizing, enervating logjams created by American society is to pile on cultural pressure for women to be primary caregivers and nurturers for young children, and then deny them any and all practical support for this role in the workplace.  It’s a psychological squeezebox of guilt, pressure and fear, one that few mothers have the fortitude and ingenuity to dismantle. Thus many women drop out of the workforce, or drop down to the dreaded Mommy Track of fewer promotions and pay hikes in exchange for more priceless time at home.


A lot more of us working parents could get away with only two weeks baby leave if we too had a custom-built crib and nursing station a few feet from our office. Those of us in the corporate world call that onsite daycare, which is designed to help parents balance work and caring for children at the same time. 


A helping hand juggling work and kids is also part of the logic behind allowing employees to work at home; the flexibility allows many employees to get their work done and care for a sick or needy child in the same day.


So how does Marissa Mayer justify giving herself one of the most coveted workplace perks, at the same time she yanks it away from her employees?


Mayer’s mandate makes me question her leadership, her judgment and her future in the business world.