Yahoo CEO sets off telecommute dispute

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision  to require employees to be at the office is not sitting well with employees signed on with the promise of flexibility. | Wikimedia Commons

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to require employees to be at the office is not sitting well with employees signed on with the promise of flexibility. | Wikimedia Commons

In one fell memo, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer just set business practices back years behind its competitors and ruffled a few feathers in the process.

On Feb. 22, Kara Swisher of the blog obtained a memo sent by disgruntled Yahoo employees.

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” Mayer said in the memo.

“That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”

The memo has sparked a debate concerning female employees who are caught balancing work and home life. Women have every right to be upset by the memo because it’s from a female CEO — it’s a betrayal.

When a pregnant Marissa Mayer was made CEO of Yahoo last year, it was a perfect example of how far women have advanced in the workplace, because it had never been done before.  A pregnant woman being named chief executive was proof to women that the ”glass ceiling” may start becoming a thing of the past.

With this new action taken by Mayer, it is clear that the ones affected would be working mothers who might have chosen to work for Yahoo for the company’s telecommuting option.

Mayer is equating showing up at a cubicle with dedication. She neglects to address the fact that working from home while taking care of the family proves just how much dedication one has to their job since they have to deal with so much more.

Director of UH Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Elizabeth Gregory finds no basis in Mayer’s reasoning.

“Presumably Mayer bases this policy on some sense that work is done less well by those who work from home, but as far as I know she has not presented evidence for that,” Gregory said.

“There’s a lot of evidence that people working from home are very motivated and effective, and that flexibility increases productivity. Taking that option away from women means limiting their chances to advance in the work world, and it’s especially odd for an Internet based company to limit access to online work.”

In an article posted on, Julianne Pepitone suggests that at-home mothers aren’t the only ones that are being targeted.

“Reading between the lines, it looks like some long-distance employees will have to either relocate or resign,” Pepitone said.

The memo brought a sense of confusion because it came from Mayer, who is herself a new mom.

Perhaps what makes this seem like a betrayal are the reports of Mayer having a nursery built next to her office with her own money. Her child will literally be right next to her at work, so of course she could follow her across-the-board rule.

However, not all mothers have the luxury of constructing a nursery at work. Yahoo might be a floundering company, but this is not the right path to take.

“The answer is not to just go back to the old model of requiring all employees to be in the office nine to five. Down the line, if women see that they are not encouraged to combine work and family, many will just not have kids,” Gregory said.

Yahoo responded to the criticisms by releasing a statement to the Huffington Post on Feb. 26.

“This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home — this is about what is right for Yahoo, right now,” the memo said.

The company fails to realize the effects of their actions. A cold, sweeping edict like this has set the women’s movement back a few steps because it came from someone who is supposed to understand the trials of being a woman in the workforce.

“Since Mayer is one of the few female CEO’s, it’s seen as a particular failure of vision on her part not to advance the cause of female workers. Maybe it’s just proof that female CEO’s are not all cut from the same vision-cloth, any more than male CEO’s are,” Gregory says.

Mayer is supposed to be the symbol of how far the women’s movement has come, and going back to the way things were before the advent of the telecommute makes the balance of work and home harder than it needs to be.

Employees will start searching for new jobs; the company’s most talented, disgruntled assets will find work elsewhere, putting Yahoo further behind the competition.

Alex Caballero is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment

  • The new CEO of a struggling company makes a controversial HR policy decision. Is it a good decision? Is it a bad decision? Fair questions.

    But what difference does the CEO’s gender make?!?! The fact that even feminist and liberal media is making this a “female CEO” story illustrates the progress that society has to make before women will be treated equally in the workforce.

    Marissa Mayer was not hired to be a role model for women. She wasn’t hired to advance a cause. She wasn’t hired to be a symbol of a movement. She was hired to save a sinking ship. And until that is the ONLY criteria by which she is judged, then society (including The Daily Cougar) still has a long way to go.

    I wish Marissa Mayer the best of luck. She’s got a tough job ahead of her.

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