Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has made headlines for issuing the edict that no one at the company can work remotely any longer. The memo is here; you can read various takes on it at Salon and Jezebel.
This, despite studies that flexible workplaces are more productive, not to mention more family friendly. This, despite the fact that plenty of people on staff were hired with the explicit understanding that their jobs would allow for flexibility on this front.
The back story on the decision, which may or may not be true, suggests that Yahoo is overstaffed with redundant and non-productive workers, so requiring everyone to work from the office will thin the herd without the need for the company to make hard decisions about lay-offs. This is the self-deportation of the corporate world, I guess, and the source suggests the CEO has made a courageous move that has needed to happen for some time.
Mayer, a woman, is facing the criticism you’d expect a woman in the CEO role to face.
No, she’s not facing criticism that the wrong people—talented ones, productive ones, necessary ones—might quit now that they are going to be required to put their meat in the seat. That people who accepted a job based on the promise of remote work or flexibility around office time would resent having the terms changed. Even though, to my mind, that’s a reasonable critique of this policy, which seems to be taking a blunt object to a very fine problem.
She’s being criticized, of course, for being unfair to women, especially working mothers.
This is what gets my goat.
I’m pretty convinced that if a male CEO had made this very same decision, we’d be skeptical of the business acumen behind it, but we would not have seen nearly the outcry over that man’s responsibility for focusing on the family.
What really gets me is that we still don’t have a large enough sample size of women as CEOs at major corporations for anyone to make generalizations about women who hold these positions, and yet, hold on tight, because those generalizations are coming fast and furious right now.
I’m not saying Meyer is a good CEO, or a good feminist, or a good person, or a bad one of any of those things. I don’t know. But I do know that we’ll be reviewing her work AS A WOMAN, a frame we wouldn’t impose on a man in the same position. One more damned if you do, damned if you don’t for women in positions of leadership.
She has avoided the hard decision. That’s not what you want from a company’s leader.
This will be disruptive to many employees, but they’ll eventually find employment with better suited employers. Many other companies will benefit from this decision.
Yahoo will continue to circle the drain, only a little more tightly.
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