Marissa Mayer made headlines when she became the first pregnant woman to be appointed CEO by a Fortune 500 company.
To understand what her new position at Yahoo means for the role of women in the workplace, we spoke to Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream and board member of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives.
This is what she told us:
1. Women should realize they're on the same team. When Mayer announced that she would only be taking "a few weeks" of maternity leave, there was concern across the web that her choice was setting a precedent other working women could not follow.
But Archambeau says women shouldn't view Mayer's decision in a negative way. Instead, focus on what she's accomplished: She will head one of the Internet's biggest brands, and this will help bend gender stereotypes in male-dominated Silicon Valley.
"We all want the same thing—we all want everyone to be able to have choices on how they want to live their lives, contribute to society and contribute to the growth and development of their families. What we’ve been striving for is for people to be able to have choices. [Mayer's ascent to CEO] is a great example of having a choice."
Furthermore, Archambeau says women should appreciate Mayer's honesty when the new CEO was asked about her upcoming maternity leave. Mayer's candor is a reflection of her work style, and does not suggest that women shouldn't take time to care for themselves and their infants after giving birth.
2. Women don't have to conform to succeed. Mayer's ascent to Yahoo's top job has already shown women that, fueled by a strong work ethic, success is attainable. What's reassuring is there's not just one formula to make it to the top.
Archambeau tells us that many female executives in Silicon Valley have had different career paths, and women shouldn't feel as though they have to emulate Mayer's every move in order to make it.
Archambeau says, "people don't have to pick the same major and follow the same footsteps."
"I think its easier for people to imagine themselves in situations, roles and jobs when they see other people like them who are doing it. [Mayer] getting this job when she is relatively young, married and pregnant [are] all good things."
In any business, a person will need formidable leadership skills, a strategic vision and a strong specialization in order to succeed. "Taking on roles that have importance and significance in the company" will also propel one's career forward, Archambeau says.
3. The way women are viewed in the workplace isn't going to change overnight. While Mayer's appointment isn't going to single-handedly solve gender inequality, it's another high-profile step forward that continues the momentum of affording women the same opportunities as men.
"Sometimes in reading this, you think that [Mayer] getting this job is going to change the world for women," Archambeau says. "And, I just don’t think that’s the case...[it is] just a great example of this positive moment for people, all kinds of people, to have choices, to be able to achieve and gain the positions that they are striving for."
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