July 23, 2012 — The announcement last week that new Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is pregnant and plans to work throughout her maternity leave has "opened a new front in the debate over work-life balance," the New York Times reports.
While some believe it is "progress for high-profile women to willingly forgo their right to a maternity leave," others say it can "send the message that taking true time off is only for the uncommitted," according to the Times.
Many prominent women who have worked through maternity leave say the decision "can feel like an empowering choice -- and at the same time, not a choice at all," the Times states. Pooja Sankar, CEO of Piazza, an online forum for teachers and students, said that she worked through her maternity leave because her company is like another child that "depends on [her] to run, to exist, really."
Jane Swift, former acting governor of Massachusetts, gave birth to twins while in office in 2001 and was caught off-guard by the discussion engendered when she worked through her maternity leave. Swift, now CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages, said, "I was surprised we were having these heated debates a decade ago, and I'm surprised we're still having them today." She added that she thinks maternity leave is "an outdated notion for high-achieving women and men who have lots of demands and lots of flexibility."
However, many women are forced " to quickly return to work because they need the paycheck or can't risk losing their job," and many women don't have the option of working remotely, the Times states (Gootman/Saint Louis, New York Times, 7/20).