July 22 2012
Having it All, All at Once is a False Debate
Vicki E. Alger
A $71 million contract, the youngest Fortune 500 CEO in history, and an expectant mother. Marissa Mayer’s accomplishments are generating a lot of media admiration and debate. (See here, here, and here.)
Fortune’s editor-at-large Patricia Sellers writes that Mayer “fueled the debate about whether successful working women can have it all. The debate was already raging, actually, since last month when Princeton University's Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Slaughter's Atlantic cover story critiqued stars like Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg who seem to do it all (with domestic help) and dare other aspiring women to try.” Appearing on "CBS This Morning,” Sellers responded to criticism that Mayer is being naive:
This issue of young women not being aggressive enough, and risk-taking enough with their careers, and not leaning into their careers has been such an issue for the past couple of years, and Marissa Mayer, who has been a role model, is now a new kind of role model for young women.
On the issue of workplace flexibility, Sellers continued noting that there have been two issues to this debate. One side says companies aren’t stepping up to accommodate working mothers. The other side says young women aren’t being aggressive enough concerning their careers. Mayer’s situation with Yahoo shows “both sides are stepping up to the plate. …I think we should cheer them both on,” Sellers explained. As for doing it all, the reality is says Sellers, is that most successful women “don’t really try to do it all at once.”