Pregnant, Working, and CEO

Should a pregnant CEO be such a big deal?

Last week, former Google executive Marissa Mayer took over as the CEO of Yahoo!, Inc. Mayer is young (37 years old), and her appointment brings the number of Fortune 500 female CEOs to just 20.

As if that weren’t exciting enough, just hours after her new position became public, Mayer offered her twitter followers “another piece of good news,” sharing that she was pregnant with her first child, due just a few months from now. Mayer later told Fortune magazine that none of the Yahoo directors “revealed any concern” about her pregnancy in making their decision.

Well, the Yahoo board might have considered it a non-issue, but the rest of the world certainly has not.

Mayer’s pregnancy news has attracted plenty of attention, including multiple pieces in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Forbes, among many others.

I wish it weren’t such big news.

Yes, Mayer is pregnant. So are a lot of other working women. A lot of working men (and male CEOs) have pregnant wives, or ailing parents, or sick spouses, or any number of family or life situations that demand extra time and energy. Steve Jobs ran Apple quite successfully over several years with pancreatic cancer. Is having a baby really so much harder or more distracting than suffering a horrible debilitating illness?

I don’t think so.

Mayer has a tough task ahead of her at Yahoo, and like all working moms, she’s going to face challenges in learning to balance work and motherhood. But all this fuss over her pregnancy does her a real disservice by making impending motherhood seem like some sort of albatross.

The thing is, I think Mayer herself would agree with me. Mayer has been getting (and deflecting) attention as a “groundbreaking woman” in the tech industry for years. I love how she begins this interview with PBS’s Makers series with the quip, “I’m not a woman at Google, I’m a geek at Google:”

In every interview I’ve seen or read since the big Yahoo announcement, Mayer seems genuinely unimpressed by her special status as the first-ever pregnant Fortune 500 CEO. Instead, she’s much more focused on the work she has to do and the challenges ahead. She’s not out to break barriers or be inspirational, she just wants to do her job well, something I find pretty inspirational.

What about you? Do you think it matters if the new CEO is pregnant?