Marissa Mayer: Yahoo's new CEO takes 'having it all' to new level

Yahoo's new CEO, Marissa Mayer, takes over the company after years of unsuccessful leaders. Hours after Yahoo announced her position, Mayer announced that she is pregnant with a baby boy due in October. 'Having it all' has taken on a new meaning.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File
In this 2009 file photo, Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products and User Experience for Google, speaks in Mountain View, Calif. Yahoo announced Monday that it is hiring Mayer to be its next CEO, the fifth in one year. Hours after Yahoo's announcement, Mayer announced on Twitter that she is expecting a baby boy in October.

Marissa Mayer, the newly appointed chief executive officer of Yahoo, is about to become the new role model in the recent debate over whether or not women can “have it all.”

As if taking over Yahoo isn’t a big enough professional challenge (she will be the fifth CEO in one year, according to The New York Times), Mayer is taking the position knowing that she will go on maternity leave in October.

Mayer announced on Twitter, just hours after the Yahoo announcement, that she and her husband are expecting a baby boy on Oct. 7. Mayer broke the news in an interview with Fortune, saying that the baby is very active.

“He moves around a lot,” she said. “My doctor says that he takes after his parents.”

Yahoo first contacted Mayer in mid June about the CEO position, and she told the search committee about her pregnancy. In a meeting with the full board last week, Mayer told Fortune, no one expressed any concern about her ability to handle a demanding job and motherhood.

“They showed their evolved thinking,” she said.

Mayer says that she will only be on maternity leave for a few weeks and even expects to continue working throughout it, saying, “I like to stay in the rhythm of things.”

The rhythm of being high-powered decision maker for a technology company is evident in her bio, which Yahoo included with its announcement. Mayer worked for Google for 13 years, hired as the company’s 20th employee and its first female engineer in 1999. She held various positions – engineer, designer, product manager, and most recently, executive – and played an integral role in helping Google establish its brand and culture. Fortune included Mayer in the list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for the past four years, and she is the youngest woman to be included on that list. She has also been recognized by Glamour as the “Woman of the Year.”

She joins the limited ranks of women executives in Silicon Valley, which include Facebook COO and board member Sheryl Sandberg, Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, and IBM chief Virginia M. Rommetty.

Mayer definitely fits in with Sandberg’s motto of “Don’t Leave Before You Leave,” which she describes in a commentary for Fortune as women’s tendency to mentally check out of work when planning to have kids.  She writes:

“But slowing down too early is a mistake that too many women make today, often without even realizing it. Because they sincerely want to stay in the workforce, they try to make room for everything and they slow down – or unconsciously pull back – well before their circumstances actually change. By the time they fully return, they are in jobs that no longer challenge or reward them enough to hold their attention.”

Mayer isn’t slowing down with this career move. In fact, she is speeding up.

Her ability to “have it all” – the balance of professional career and family – doesn’t reflect the typical position of most working moms. Yahoo’s first concession to its new pregnant CEO is to move its September board meeting from New York to Sunnyvale, Calif.

It seems like she will redefine what it means to balance work and family life. It will be interesting to see how she will use this new position to support working mothers and women in the tech industry.

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