(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Soon after news broke yesterday that Yahoo (YHOO) had appointed as CEO, it was also learned that she is expecting her first child in October. Female chief executives are rare, as are corporate leaders in their 30s, so Mayer is breaking new ground.
That's why it's understandable that people are already asking how Mayer, 37, will be able to run a major company while she's pregnant. How will she handle maternity leave? And with pundits still warning American women that they can't have it all, the familiar subtext is that Mayer -- and by extension all female execs who aspire to leadership -- may struggle in juggling motherhood and work.
Doubtful. Instead, Mayer has an opportunity to show us that there is no contradiction in having a full personal and a full professional life. The world of work is changing in a way that makes even old notions of "maternity leave" less stark.
There is no one place for work and one place for family life. I've taken calls while nursing my three babies and turned in book revisions soon after their births; no doubt Mayer will do the same for her big projects. She'll go in to an office for meetings and come home for a bit to see the baby, moving in and out of roles as she uses the whole 168 hours we all have available to us each week.
If you're up at 2 a.m. with a baby, why not read memos from your team? You can bring a baby to an office, and you can bring work home. There is no conflict. And, of course, Mayer will have plenty of help, as she would in any job she'd take.
Perhaps most surprising about this situation isn't that Mayer is attempting it -- it's that Yahoo's board was mature and forward-thinking enough to embrace it. That bodes well for the advancement of women in corporate America. After all, if a pregnant CEO is fine, promoting a non-pregnant woman isn't crazy at all. This may encourage more risk-averse boards to give it a shot.Photo courtesy of Flickr user Adam Tinworth