Women just can’t seem to get over their collective disappointment with Marissa Mayer‘s refusal to be a working mom role model. The Yahoo CEO has proven that she doesn’t want to worry about her influence on the national workplace culture. She just wants to run her darn company. And one of Mayer’s supporters comes in the form of the ultimate ‘Women In The Workplace’ spokesperson, Sheryl Sandberg.
During the press tour for Sandberg’s motivational new book Lean In, the Facebook COO and board member mentioned her “friend” Marissa Mayer and all of the flack she’s been getting for her controversial end to working-from-home. Speaking with TIME, Sheryl says of working-from-home specifically, “No one knows what happened there. I think flexibility is important for women and for men. But there are some jobs that are superflexible and some that aren’t.”
Most importantly, she believes that the critique of the decision has been so strong not because of the policy change itself but because Mayer is female. Would a man ever gain so much attention for making his company less “working-parent friendly”?
It’s a sentiment that many people have brought up since the backlash against Mayer started. Commenters here at Mommyish said that we were being overly harsh on the Yahoo Chief, especially since we rarely discuss other individual companies and their corporate policies. It’s not a false charge and I think we all have to acknowledge that. Expectations for Mayer seem to be sky-high, and who knows if she’ll ever be able to meet them.
But I do believe it says something important about Sandberg that she decided to jump into the debate. While Yahoo’s only response to the criticism was to meekly ask everyone to butt out of their business, Sandberg wants to throw her hat in the ring. She wants to be the one who speaks for working women everywhere. And I honestly believe that she sees speaking up for Mayer as a duty to show support for other high-achieving females like herself.
Of course, Sandberg’s propensity to speak for the entirety of working women has earned its own backlash, very different from Mayer’s but approaching the same fervor. Bridget Williams wrote a harsh review of the Facebook executive in Business Insider titled, “Please Sheryl Sandberg, Don’t Speak On Behalf Of Working Women.”
In a way, these two well-known and respected women who have risen to the top of their fields have polar opposite public images. One wants to lead the charge of brave new women in the workplace, the other wants everyone to stop talking about the fact that she’s female. And the public doesn’t seem to be happy with either of them.
I think Sandberg will tell you that we, as a society, simply can’t support any women achieving success. And maybe she’s right.