Marissa Mayer: CEO or Woman First?

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo–and mother to a four-month-old son–is coming under fire for having ordered that employees working at home must start working in the office or, presumably, be fired.

“Hypocrisy!” shriek her critics, based on the fact that Mayer built (at her own expense) a nursery near her Yahoo office in order to be closer to her son. Others are enraged at the irony of a working mother instituting measures that will make the lives of other working mothers more difficult.

But as the facts attest, Mayer resorted to ending the work-at-home option only when other, less draconian measures failed to obtain the results she wanted–namely, a closer, harder-working workforce engaged collaboratively with one another. By terminating the work-at-home option, she has chosen to act primarily as a CEO rather than as a woman, or a mother.

Kudos to her for it. When did certain segments of the population began to think that a company exists first and foremost for the fulfillment and ease of its employees rather than for the benefit of the consumer and the profits of the company itself (which translate into gains for its shareholders)?

Of course, if it is possible to institute a workplace culture that facilitates work-life balance, that’s all to the good–and responsible employers are in the wrong if they fail to implement easy, common sense measures that improve their workers’ lives. But in situations like the one at Yahoo, where employee preferences conflict with what a company’s leader determines to be in the best interest of the company, the leader’s responsibility must be to the organization he or she has been chosen to lead. The sex of the leader should be irrelevant to the determination.

Critics should lay off Marissa Mayer, who sounds like an extremely talented, hard-working woman who’s doing her best to excel in her (relatively) new post. Were she to subjugate Yahoo’s needs to her own agenda as a working mother–or if she failed to take needed measures just to prove she was “nice”–she would do a profound disservice to all the other women striving to reach the top because of their abilities, not their gender.