Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer was wrong

By Cynthia Good

Marissa Mayer’s latest move to ban telecommuting at Yahoo! is an example of outdated thinking that is certain to cost the company in reputation, recruitment and retention.

This decision takes a direct hit at working mothers, in particular.

While Mayer has a private (yes, we know she paid for it personally) in-office nursery for her newborn, her co-workers, with significantly lower salaries, now have to put their children in daycares and latchkey programs.

But, coming from the woman who called maternity leave an outdated concept, should we really be surprised?

At PINK, we hold Mayer in high regard. During her Google days, we featured her as one of our Top Women in Business. We were proud of Yahoo’s board and thrilled to see her move into the role, especially while pregnant. It demonstrated what is possible for women who want family and career.

But this week’s declaration that telecommuting employees must come into the office, or resign en mass as of June, sends the wrong message.

Working women everywhere are in an uproar, and rightfully so.

The flexibility to work from home, or send in a presentation while picking a child up from school, has given women a better shot at balancing family and career – at “having it all.”

According to Accenture’s global research for Women’s History Month, more than half of women surveyed turned down jobs due to concerns about Life/Work balance. For most respondents, balance tops definitions of career success – ahead of money, recognition and autonomy.

Reactions to Mayer’s ultimatum have been mixed, varying from “smart not ruthless” to “backwards.”

Yes, Yahoo! may become a more collaborative place and unproductive employees may be easier to pinpoint. Will profits increase? Maybe. Will productivity improve? Possibly. Will Yahoo! loose talented women equally dedicated to their home life? Most certainly.

Not everyone performs well outside of the office, and some jobs aren’t conducive to telecommuting. But, it’s not because telecommuting doesn’t work; it’s because the job went to the wrong person. It’s a bad hire.

Still, the smartest businesses focus on results rather than face-time. They’re devising innovative ways to bring in the best and the brightest – even if that means accommodating requests to work from home.

Companies that deliver one-size-fits-all ultimatums will lose out to the competition. It’s not personal. It’s business.

At Little PINK Book we telecommute a couple days a week. If you ask the boss (that would be me), workers tend to be more productive when we’re together at work. But offering flexibility allows us bring in the best and the brightest. Our editor is a mom to children ages 2, 3 and 5. Our head of finance just gave birth to a baby boy. Last week, baby Patrick joined us in the office, and we took turns holding him during a lengthy finance meeting.

It was distracting. And challenging. And wonderful. Because work isn’t just about business, it’s personal.

Mayer remains an important role model for working women. She has her baby and a hot job. We cheer her on! We just wish more women had the same opportunity.

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