By Sydney Sibelius '18
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, recently announced that she will take a two-week maternity leave after giving birth to twins in Dec. 2015. Mayer is also planning on working throughout her pregnancy. Her decision to take such a short leave has sparked controversy in the business world, amongst mothers, and in many other sectors.
In response to the debates aroused by Mayer’s announcement, the LASPA Center at Scripps College held an Up for Discussion panel on the topic of maternity leave with Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga and Interim President-Elect Amy Marcus-Newhall. Up for Discussion sponsors panels and events regarding current topics of controversy and points for conversation.
The discussion was held in the living room of the Revelle House, with refreshments and snacks served. Chairs were set up around the room with Bettison-Varga and Marcus-Newhall settled on the couch at one end of the space. It was attended by a combination of both students and other faculty members who were able to ask questions and aid in the direction of the discussion.
The hour-long forum covered past and current family leave policies at Scripps and the experiences that both Bettison-Varga and Marcus-Newhall had with their children. General issues surrounding maternity leave and child support were also covered.
Both Bettison-Varga and Marcus-Newhall had summer babies and were able to take around six weeks of leave before they had to return to teaching in the fall.
Marcus-Newhall had twins in the month of Sept. as a result of her second pregnancy and decided not to teach that fall. She also discussed with Scripps staff her ability to return to work when she was ready.
“Scripps was very accommodating, but my first realization was that there was no formal policy at Scripps,” Marcus-Newhall said.
Scripps has only recently implemented a family leave policy in the past few years. Currently, it stands that the primary caretaker receives one paid semester off while the secondary caretaker can teach one fewer course. Within the state of California, parents are able to take time off from work but only receive disability pay, legally framing the notion of having a baby as a disability.
The controversy and discussions surrounding Mayer are a result of differing opinions on the issue. Many view Mayer’s decision as harmful to her family and her children’s upbringing; however, others believe that taking a longer leave would have been harmful to her company due to the necessity of a change in leadership and the transition of her position to another person.
Mayer has been both praised and criticized for her decision. She has exemplified that every woman has the right to choose her own plan and that each person navigates their own life differently. She has also brought into light the difference in expectations between mothers and fathers and varying familial situations.
“If you choose to work full time, you are not considered to be a good mom,” Marcus-Newhall said. Working moms are criticized, while women who stay at home also feel judged. Mayer, again, is setting an example that not all women are the same and children do not need to be their main responsibility.
“Issues of work and family are complicated across the board,” Bettison-Varga said.
The Up for Discussion panel brought into light the privilege behind those who can afford to take time off after having kids. “Many women do not even get the chance. This is a very privileged discussion,” Marcus-Newhall said.
For many women, it is necessary to return to work as quickly as possible after giving birth in order to financially support their families. Many are not as fortunate as Mayer to be able to go back to work for reasons that are not financial. A good support team is necessary for all mothers, and especially for mothers who work. However, some people may not have family members or be able to afford day care to provide this support.
Mayer’s decision has led to many discussions that could alter the perception of women and maternity leave in the future. Mayer can help lead to the implementation of new policies by starting these discussions and raising awareness in order to bring change to the topic of women and family care.