Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is pregnant with twins and planning on taking minimal time away for pregnancy and delivery – an approach that has caught the executive some flak in the past.

“Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout,” writes Mayer in a post on Tumblr.

Within a year of her son’s delivery, Mayer extended parental leave at the company to 16 weeks paid leave for mothers, eight weeks for fathers. So what are we to make of her choice to forego what is widely considered a pretty generous parental leave package at the company she leads?

Some are saying Mayer’s choice should be irrelevant to conversations around paid parental leave and work-life balance. As CEO of a major tech company, she can wield resources (mainly money) that most people don’t have to make child rearing easier, allowing her to return to work more quickly, some point out. Mayer is by vocation a tech CEO, not an advocate for working mothers

The CEO probably isn’t trying to send a message about maternity leave with her personal choices, says Nigel Dessau, chief marketing officer at Stratus Technologies and author of "Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack."

Dessau doesn’t believe work-life balance is an apt description of the relationship between office and home life, and says careers boil down to individuals making their own choices about how to approach work. Mayer’s choice is just as much an individual choice for her as it would be for an employee of Yahoo and shouldn’t be taken as an example others must follow, he argues.

“I think we stand the risk sometimes of looking for too much meaning and understanding from what people do,” he says.

 Still, Mayer's choices have the power to set the tone for how working parents (especially mothers) approach pregnancy in the United States, where paid maternity leave is not guaranteed by law.

Employees may not feel comfortable taking full advantage of a generous leave policy if they see a company leader pass on the opportunity; that's why when Netflix announced unlimited leave for new parents, some wondered whether the absence of a defined window for time off might lead to employees attempting to take as little time off as possible. 

If the amount of time Mayer plans to take off weren’t relevant, she wouldn’t have answered the question before anyone even asked. 

Published on: Sep 1, 2015