Yahoo CEO Needs to Put All Families, Not Just Her Own, Ahead of Business

Don Tennant

If you haven’t read my colleague Rob Enderle’s post about the colossal mistake Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made when she issued the perplexing directive to ban telecommuting at the company, do yourself a favor and read it. Enderle makes a great case for why the micromanagement of first-line managers is an abuse of CEO power. And Carl Weinschenk argues that Mayer may soon rue throwing off all the great advantages that unified communications (along with telecommuting) have brought to her company. But I would argue that there’s something even more disturbing about her decision: She’s kicking what she claims to be her own core values to the curb.

The irony here is fascinating. Just three months ago, Mayer proclaimed that her priorities were “God, family, Yahoo—in that order.” Two months earlier, she had given birth to a baby boy, so it seemed only natural for a new mom to put family ahead of business. It’s a shame that Mayer has taken such a senseless step that seriously harms the ability of all the other moms and dads at Yahoo to live their lives with the same priorities.

Banning the option to work remotely deprives those moms and dads of the flexibility parents need in the never-ending quest to balance their personal and professional lives. The move bespeaks a detachment from the reality of everyday life for her employees — especially the moms — who struggle to earn an income and nurture their children all at the same time. For Mayer, that challenge probably doesn’t seem all that difficult. After all, with a compensation package that’s estimated to be as high as $129 million, and the wherewithal to hire nannies and housekeepers and all the other help she could possibly need, the idea of a flexible work schedule that includes a telecommuting option no doubt seems entirely unnecessary. It’s probably very difficult to empathize with a mom who sees that option as a godsend.

MomsRising.org, an organization that promotes the fair treatment of mothers and other women, has issued a statement in response to Mayer’s directive. It should be required reading for Mayer and any other executive who might be inclined to follow her lead:


Yahoo's announcement that it is ending its policy of allowing employees to work remotely is being met with shocked disbelief. The fact that an Internet company, which has contributed to the ability for people to work from home, is ending this long-standing practice is troubling, especially given the immense success of companies who regularly use remote work options. Flexible work environments can be highly effective in many jobs, not just for parents or others with family obligations, but for anyone. Removing this option cuts a company off from the talented and innovative workers they need to remain competitive.

The modern workforce needs modern workplace policies and practices. As technology has made possible these advances, the composition of our labor force has also changed: Women now comprise half the paid labor force for the first time in history and three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force. Most families now need two parents working for pay to make ends meet.

From the highly paid to those making minimum wage, far too few women in America have flexible work options — almost three-fourths of working adults say they don’t control their work schedules. In fact, the top reason identified by highly educated and trained women for leaving the “fast track” is the lack of family time.  

Companies like Yahoo, which need highly creative and talented people for their work forces must understand the important benefits of allowing employees to work remotely on their overall productivity and the well-being of our nation’s families.

In other words, Ms. Mayer, if you truly believe that family comes before company, have the decency to ensure that it’s not just your own family that’s able to live that way. You’re not the only mom at Yahoo, just the most powerful one. Have the good sense to use that power wisely.



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Feb 28, 2013 8:28 AM Dickon Moon Dickon Moon  says:
My initial response to the ‘Marissa Meyer memo’ was shock at this old-fashioned approach. The reality is that it has at least bought the topic to the fore for debate. Homeworking allows us access to a far greater talent pool than that of a fixed office, limited by the people available within its commutable distance. It also allows us access to a much more diverse range of skills and experience, that we can then pass on to our clients, to truly serve customer needs – the world of the virtual worker creates significant advantages. Technology is advancing at lightening speed, and the days of the office commute are truly numbered as both employees and employers are now uncovering the myriad of advantages that Home Working creates. The antiquated views that this technology creates a barrier to collaboration and creativity, and that people cannot be trusted to deliver without physical supervision, contradicts the results produced by a whole host of leading companies the world over. For more on my views on why flexible work is the way to a progressive future, please read my blogpost http://blog.arise.com/uk/clients/working-from-home-to-be-or-not-to-be/ Reply
Feb 28, 2013 10:38 PM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says:
This is just a case of Marissa wanting a mark on which to hang her gold star. I hear commentator after commentator on radio, TV, and net saying that Marissa is doing this to help her ailing company. Yahoo was already earning $90,000$/year in profit per employee prior to Marissa coming on board. Yes, Yahoo is an immensely profitable company, but just like Scott Thompson before her (who laid off thousands despite this immense profit margin), Marissa need something to point to, to justify the big CEO bonus. This is really a middle management problem. Middle managers are responsible for effectively communicating critical information, such as spec for a product. Frankly, most programmers go to the net to find solutions, or read existing code, or in other cases they originate a solution. The office is filled with distractions, home typically is not. If you hang around the cooler, or break room, you will hear all kinds of non-work conversations, in other words wasted time. Management is always very politically sensitive, and that sensitivity overrides all, even the fact that studies have show developer productivity sky-rockets at home. Reply
Mar 1, 2013 10:10 AM Odumbo Odumbo  says: in response to Jake_Leone
Yahoo was already earning $90,000$/year in profit per employee prior to Marissa coming on board. So what? That's a meaningless statement to make. Do you know that Yahoo is a publically traded company? There are hundreds of thousands of investors, bond holders etc where the profits will be shared and gross profit reinvested into future business. Reply
Mar 1, 2013 8:14 PM jake_leone jake_leone  says: in response to Odumbo
Let's just look at it as a billion dollars in PROFIT per year. I know a lot of publicly traded companies, with high flying stock prices, that are struggling to do a billion in gross, not profit. If Yahoo continues to make a billion in profit, every year, it could easily stay in business (for centuries). Assuming standard inflation. IBM's per employee profit is only 36,000$/year, or about 1/3 that of Yahoo. But you don't hear commentators saying that IBM is struggling company, why do they say Yahoo is a struggling company? When, clearly, even with a work-at-home policy, Yahoo is per employee 3x more productive than IBM. 99% of all businesses, anywhere, would be bending over backwards to accommodate (save lionize) employees, that can earn $90,000 dollar in profit. Does that make it more meaningful to you? Reply
Mar 2, 2013 12:08 PM jake_leone jake_leone  says:
Let's just look at it as a billion dollars in PROFIT per year. I know a lot of publicly traded companies, with high flying stock prices, that are struggling to do a billion in gross, not profit. If Yahoo continues to make a billion in profit, every year, it could easily stay in business (for centuries). Assuming standard inflation. IBM's per employee profit is only 36,000$/year, or about 1/3 that of Yahoo. But you don't hear commentators saying that IBM is struggling company, why do they say Yahoo is a struggling company? When, clearly, even with a work-at-home policy, Yahoo is per employee 3x more productive than IBM. 99% of all businesses, anywhere, would be bending over backwards to accommodate (save lionize) employees, that can earn $90,000 dollar in profit. Does that make it more meaningful to you? Reply
Mar 11, 2013 3:01 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says:
"Do not let your women rule you" - Cicero "She’s kicking what she claims to be her own core values to the curb." And Vivek Wadhwa wonders why there aren't more women in tech - they are irrational. "The irony here is fascinating. Just three months ago, Mayer proclaimed that her priorities were “God, family, Yahoo—in that order.” And she can't even come up with something original - having to paraphrase Steve Jobs instead. Reply
Nov 11, 2015 9:50 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says: in response to Odumbo
Yahoo has stagnated for 3.5 years under Marissa Mayer. The rating system at Yahoo, implemented by Marissa Mayer, is an ancient throwback. The company has not even match inflation in terms of profitability. Yahoo needs change. Not old tired ideas that were proven bad for an engineering environment, some 30 years ago. Reply

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