Marissa Mayer’s Looming Hormonal Crisis (yes, WTF)

I was driving back from Lake Tahoe this afternoon in my rental car. Which meant a lot time to scan through radio stations to kill time. Somewhere before Sacramento I hit 810 AM, where they were talking about Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy, so I listened for a while.

The host was Tim Montemayor. He was taking a lot of calls from what sounded like older women. A lot of the comments were along the lines of “I’m sure she’s wonderful but it’s not fair because people who invested in that company are going to lose their life savings” and “she’s not fit to be a parent.”

In other words, these weren’t our country’s best and brightest citizens. The host was riling them up and HE seemed quite convinced that Marissa would probably simultaneously ruin Yahoo and neglect her child.

“I feel bad for this generation, too much is expected from women,” said one caller.

There was also, and I’m not kidding, some discussion of how hormones will affect her ability to cope with the stress of being a CEO.

Where’s the outrage? Where are the women in tech screaming for people to stop talking about a woman’s pregnancy as if it were somehow anyone’s business, or whether a pregnant woman/young mother is capable of leading a company?

For some reason Mayer doesn’t seem to generate that kind of passionate defense response from the self selected leaders of the women in tech movement.

I’ve talked before about how important role models are for more women to reach positions of power and influence in tech.

This whole situation is just a nicely wrapped gift to the whole community, something to truly inspire more women to get into tech and entrepreneurship.

But from what I’m seeing there’s a lot more tearing her down (including from women) than celebrating the whole situation.

Why is that?

27 thoughts on “Marissa Mayer’s Looming Hormonal Crisis (yes, WTF)

  1. Koo Roosha says:

    i think that’s just how systems work — these are the tools that the status quo “uses” in trying to “survive.”

  2. It beggars belief that its 2012 and both Men and Women have this attitude. Here in Australia we have an Australian Prime Minister and she suffers a lot of the same fate.

  3. WOW! (Are we *sure* we aren’t going BACK in time? (For the longest time, I thought humanity was getting brighter…moving forward…))

  4. geoffwolfe says:

    I never understood why some people, including women, who think because someone is pregnant that they are somehow altered and disabled. My wife ran a business and worked at customer sites through 8.5 months twice and never thought twice about. And she and the kids are just fine. Me too.

  5. constancex says:

    “Reverse Dominance Hierarchy” The end of the 20th c. didn’t bring about the end of crude primate social structures.

  6. Jason says:

    Well said. But I am sure that she is already used to all this blah blah being a woman and working in tech for so long.
    Let’s face it: most people outside of tech probably only know Whitman, Fiorina, and Sandberg. All three are unlike Mayer. Mayer is more like the engineers she has been surrounded with for years at Google.
    As much as people want Yahoo to be a media company, it still is after all a tech company run with thousands of engineers. Alienate them and you lose the fuel to the engine.

  7. Dave Donohue says:

    I never know whether the nut jobs on AM radio are genuinely ignorant and uninformed, or if they’re just practicing an analog form of linkbaiting by spouting things on the air that they know will generate a reaction. If it’s the former I’m sure that someone like Marissa Mayer, who accomplishes more in a week than an AM radio talk show host like Tim Montemayor will ever accomplish in a lifetime, has heard it before and ignores it.

    That said, both he and the people who called in should be ashamed of themselves.

  8. Lindsey Guest says:

    The women complaining are most likely afraid of a woman who can do it all. Maybe they aren’t fulfilled in their lives and don’t want to see other women building both families and careers. I’m the CEO and Founder of a tech start-up and I can’t believe how different my path has been compared to my male-entrepreneur friends. The supportive, entrepreneurial females I know are so valuable because I’ve noticed a distinct lack of support from accomplished women. There is a new generation of brilliant, female entrepreneurs who are changing the face of tech (most notably in the e-commerce space) but sadly most VC’s are men don’t take female entrepreneurs seriously. For women, getting funded, is extremely difficult. If women supported each other more this problem wouldn’t exist because there would be more female VC’s and entrepreneurs and no one would care what gender you were. #oneday.

  9. Thank you Michael for posting this. Women in tech don’t rise up in outrage, because many just answer by doing well and shutting the noise up. It is inane to still hear comments like this. Some of our founding mothers ran farms, started and managed businesses and raised families while the founding fathers were away building the country… No one considered them incapable of coping with multiple demands. Many many women in tech raise families and lead large segments of their organization. They find ways to balance and get help, the same way men in demanding positions do. In the case of men, that help has often been in the form of a spouse. In the case of women, sometimes its a spouse, other times an assistant or nanny, etc. This is a legacy discussion from earlier generations this past century.

  10. Liza says:

    Well, some women are just too insecure to appreciate other woman’s achievement or they’re just busy taking care of their family over the weekend and finding no time defending their kind :)

    Bottomline, I think this is a ‘very’ ‘gargantuan’ challenge for Ms Mayer. If she can pull this off, I’m sure all the women out there will be riding her fame and fortune, so to speak :))

    Kodus to Marissa Mayer!

  11. rabidwombat says:

    They are the same women who, a hundred years ago, didn’t believe women should have the right to vote. They even went to the effort of staging women-only rallies against Susan B. Anthony’s movement. Human beings have always been kind of stupid.

    The cultural bias against women isn’t a male-specific thing (though it may be stronger in us). It’s good to call it out.

  12. Saratoga Sam says:

    Jealousy

  13. Utah says:

    This sort of prejudice is happening as much as ever.

    True Story: My wife (and I both) worked for Yahoo (in Australia)– as did our close friend. Both my wife and our friend went on Maternity Leave around the same time. Both were due to return to work in the following January. Both got told 1 week before Christmas, while still on Maternity leave, that they were being made redundant because they had been “forgotten on the budget”… (i.e. “we can find cheaper staff who you trained for us…” Thanks!)

    This is 100% true and was acceptable at Yahoo… They didn’t even bat an eyelid. They advertised the two moms positions only weeks after the dust cleared.

    Good Luck to Marissa. :) The company is lost in more ways than one and will need a big flashlight to find its way out of the dark.

  14. Personally, I try not to amplify BS and waste time on the endless debate on women “having it all” (god I hate that phrase). Yes, I am busy building my company. And yes, I am sick to death of hearing about women’s choices being second guessed at every F*CKING turn. I am perturbed that so much of the judgement appears to come from other women. But my solution is to just keep kicking ass and ignore what some stupid-ass has to say on a radio call in show.

  15. Nancy says:

    Why? Because we women can sometimes be hard on each other. Especially unhappy women. And also, some people just evolve slower than others. Meanwhile, as history shows, people like Marissa who break glass always get naysayers who think it’s impossible. I expect she is just dusting off the glass and carrying on. You go girl!

  16. valeriecoffman says:

    Personally, I try not to amplify BS and waste time on the endless debate on women \”having it all\” (god I hate that phrase). Yes, I am busy building my company. And yes, I am sick to death of hearing about women\’s choices being second guessed at every F*CKING turn. I am perturbed that so much of the judgement appears to come from other women. But my solution is to just keep kicking ass and ignore what some stupid-ass has to say on a radio call in show.

  17. PMS among other hormonal cycles is the secret reason why we have so few female CEOs? WTF? But I can’t ask for a candidates age in a job interview. Crazy-funny!

  18. Paco says:

    Politically correct garbage.

    She’ll be operating at 70% or less for weeks in a job that needs about 110% of what she has.

    Doesn’t mean she’s incompetent or undeserving. But please knock off the ‘pregnancy means nothing’ garbage. You don’t even believe it yourself.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      My point isn’t that the pregnancy means nothing or something. Rather, my point is that it’s none of our business. And regardless, 70% of Marissa is still way more than Yahoo had any realistic hope of ever getting anyway.

  19. tbiz (@tbiz) says:

    Really? A simple Google search yields a number of pieces saying we should (agree, rightfully) forget about MM’s pregnancy. This Atlantic piece stands out simply b/c the headline is so dead-on that point. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/stop-worrying-about-yahoos-pregnant-ceo/259986/

  20. Tara Hunt says:

    I heart you, but I’m surprised that nobody is questioning the premise of your claim, Michael. You came across an AM radio talk show that seems to aim to hyperbolize discussions – something that most ‘women in tech’ aren’t listening to – and use it as an example of us not supporting one another?

    Too bad you don’t see all the celebrating and discussion that IS going on. On Facebook, Twitter, in our private Google Groups, email and our own blogs, we’ve been having uber WIT parties around this amazing appointment, yelling things like, “Marissa will prove once and for all that pregnancy is NOT a disability!” and “Thanks Marissa for showing you CAN have it all!” and “If anybody can turn Yahoo! around, it’s Marissa!” There is support at all angles and LOTS of excitement.

    There are a few reasons that you may have missed it, of course. Number one, we are talking about it amongst ourselves (here is something to start a conspiracy theory: we have huge closed discussion groups where we talk amongst ourselves) so much we are failing to talk about it in public. I know I’ve been guilty of this. I don’t blog as much (or even tweet as much) anymore because I spend so much time in these discussion groups. Number two, you may not be reading the sources we are reading like Jezebel and Forbes Women.

    Either way, there may be women who are in tech who aren’t supportive of Marissa for whatever reason (it’s not as stereotypically simple as saying, “Jealous”), but I’ve seen way more that ARE supportive. In fact, many of us are seeing this as such a huge leap forward for tech that we are pinning too much hope on this appointment. I only fear that we are putting undo pressure on her performance (something that I often feel as a frequent conference speaker and the token woman – I have to perform better in order to make room for other women to follow).

    I think radio shows like the one you encounter are meant to be inflammatory and awful and I know that lots of people -men and women- are shocked that Yahoo! would hire a pregnant CEO, but some of that is just that this is a first and she’s paving the way. I, personally, hope she blows all stereotypes to smithereens (including the awful stereotype that women don’t support one another – I’ve never experienced that to be the case). I can definitely point you towards many women in tech who have written publicly with the same sentiment.

    • Was just about to pen a comment to this when I noticed yours Tara and figured a hearty “hell yes, what she said,” was more efficient. To add a bit though – I think the time to take off the gloves and open up both barrels publicly as we do in our private discussions is here. Already the discourse around Marissa shows a distinct change … what will be interesting will be to see whether or not more men like Michael have the fortitude to step up and fly wing …

  21. Vanessa Fox says:

    Ah Michael. You’re wondering why women aren’t speaking up, Dave is over on Techcrunch saying we need to stop whining. Whether we’re doing something or saying something (or not), we’re never going to please all of the people all of the time. (Good think we’re not trying to. Think of how much more exhausting that would be than running a company already is.)

  22. Elyssa Pallai says:

    Ridiculous. Marissa is going to kick butt. Women are INCREDIBLY strong and INSANELY rational – this I say from experience working with AMAZING women myself as founder of a start-up and in other large project roles. Marissa can handle the job. Period. Do we investigate men’s state of health, debate their bodies, their hair, their clothes when they take over a CEO role? No. Why do we do this to women? Crazy. Mad. Sick. Insane. BORING. DULL and Bloody annoying. ;-). Whew.

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