Yahoo’s Mayer: “I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist”

March 3, 2013 | Karin

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has sparked quite a debate about women and workplace with the recent announcement of her decision to end the policy allowing employees to work from home.  The staff memo obtained by All Things D states some of the following reasons for the policy change:

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

Shortly after this decision made news, Mayer made headlines again when it came out that she had a nursery built at the office. Building a nursery would normally be cheered as an example of workplace flexibility, but she is being criticized for hypocrisy in light of her decision to end Yahoo’s work-from-home policy.

And now, Mayer is challenging feminism.  Mayer spoke out against feminism in a recently released PBS/AOL documentary:

In the film Mayer says: ‘I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that, I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions.

‘But I don’t, I think, have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it’s too bad, but I do think feminism has become, in many ways, a more negative word.

‘There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there’s more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy,’ says Mayer.

I agree with Mayer that feminism has a certain negative connotation.  This March, Women’s History Month, I want to encourage readers to consider what feminism really means for women in the workplace today and in turn, how this impacts its negative image.  What are signs of success for feminists in the workplace?  Is it considered feminist for a female CEO to bring her child to work?  Or anti-feminist for Mayer to show her caretaking side so publicly at the workplace?  Was Mayer’s decision to end the work-from-home policy a sign of progress that a woman CEO can make that decision as a business decision?  Or should it be viewed as a step backwards because women lose workplace flexibility?

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