No time for parents

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who paid for a nursery next to her office to care for her new baby, has told telecommuting employees to come back to the office.

Corporate America doesn’t respect parenting, writes Penelope Trunk, who commends Mayer’s “honesty about how people deal with work-life conflict.”

Because look: Marissa Mayer is the CEO, she gets to do whatever she wants. If it’s a bad recruiting policy then she will have to change it. But for now, what Mayer is saying is that she only wants to work with people who don’t have a personal life. She doesn’t have a conflict between work and home because she puts work first, and she wants to work with other people who do the same.

Trunk, a recent convert to homeschooling, blames schools for telling kids to work hard so they can get a “big job.” Homeschoolers can raise their kids to be good people and good parents.

I don’t follow the logic. Most homeschoolers — and school schoolers — want their kids to grow up to be good people with good jobs.

In Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to make career success a priority. But not everyone wants to be a corporate honcho.

Emily Matcher’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity looks at why women (and a few men) are leaving corporate jobs for quilting, canning, cupcake baking — and raising children on the family goat farm. (My daughter is Matcher’s agent, so I have an advance copy.)

About Joanne


  1. Miller Smith says:

    If one looks at the computer geek blogs one can see that yahoo and other computer companies are suffering from big security exposure with all the internet connections between homes and yahoo main. Things were just not secure for a company that deals in software and the net. Yahoo had to get things back inside its firewall.

    Interestingly, when “just” men were the ones doing most of the “big” work little care was paid to their “personal life.” Now that women are in the big work women are making demands on companies to cater to “personal life.”

    Remember when male chauvinists said that women in the big jobs would not be focused on the job? Remember how those male chauvinists were shouted down? Remember how we were told that women in the big jobs would not cause any changes other than adding talent to the company?

    “My family life is not a liability. Hire me or you are a bigot.”

    “Thank you for hiring me. Now change your company policy to accommodate my family life or you are a bigot.”

    • I think that part of what causes there to be a ‘personal life problem’ is that both people in a couple may be working those hours. We’re a 2 PhD family, and before kids, we both worked long hours. Once we had kids, I switched to working a part-time teaching job with very defined hours. We couldn’t figure out how we’d make family life work with both of us working all the time. My spouse still works very long hours (often from home, but he’s really working – we shut the door and only see him when he grabs a plate of food for lunch). In some fields, there is so much travel that the only way that it would work for 2 parents to do it would be to have a live-in nanny.

    • TRUE!! A real feminist would do the job just as well as a man, and no sniffling about childcare and all that. Maternity leave should not be an option. Roll off that table and get back to work in three days like our mothers/grandmothers did. Suck it up, cupcake.

      It really cheeses me to see workplaces bending over backwards for these people. That’s fine to do if you’re waitressing or having a job as a cashier at Wal-Mart. NOT ok for upper-level work/upper-level pay.

  2. Uh, no, it’s not about security. Remote employees use virtual private network software (built into most operating systems) that encrypts all communication between the home user and the office (not just at Yahoo, either, but in all sorts of businesses). In fact, most office systems (such as source code control systems that allow home users to access the programs they are working on and, at some companies, email access) don’t work unless the user is connected via a VPN.

    And, in this case, it was the VPN that gave away the show. Mayer apparently had someone run the logs from the VPN software and found that far too few people who were “working from home” were even connected to the company network. If they were indeed “working”, it was on tasks that didn’t interact at all with any company systems.

    This seemed like a crazy ruling to me, until I talked to some friends familiar with the situation. Lots of real workers, people who cared and came into the office to work each day, were pretty peeved with “work from home” types who were just freeloaders. This seems like it was a good call on Mayer’s part.

    • That seems like an issue directed at their supervisors and managers. If the employees underneath you are doing almost no work, shouldn’t they be getting bad performance reviews or recommended for termination? I think that lack supervision, more than the method of how they do work, is the real culprit. I would imagine a lot of these people are just as successful at avoiding work in an office setting.

  3. Miller Smith says:

    The security of the encryped communications is so bad that live feeds of communications were avaialble online to read and download. Home workers were making deals privately to sell information to competitors.

    Yahoo needed those people back inside the firewall and under eyesight.

  4. Trunk almost hits upon the true ideal for work-from-home employees when she discusses Deloitte, but explains that Deloitte only allows flexibility because it’s convenient for clients. Well, yes. But the same flexibility that’s a plus for clients is also a plus for contractors. You can’t expect your employer to care about your work/life balance. You can, however, choose an industry that complements the work/life balance you hope to achieve. Take copy writing, for instance (since that’s what I know best at the moment.) Most businesses don’t need a full-time writer on staff. They don’t need a writer between 9-5. They need a writer who can deliver specific documents in a certain time frame, and who’s willing to work for them occasionally on a contract basis. Most over-educated homeschooling moms want to be able to work from home and at odd hours. My clients don’t necessarily care that I have a great work-life balance, they just like the fact that I’ll work nights and weekends and turn documents around relatively quickly. The relationship, like most contracts, is mutually beneficial.

    The problem with Yahoo was that work-from-home didn’t have a clear benefit for the company.

  5. Kirk Parker says:


    You may, in fact, be right about Yahoo’s motivation; I wouldn’t know. But you’re quite wrong about another aspect of the VPN security situation: it’s Yet Another Entry Point into the network. If your computer at home is compromised, well now thanks to the VPN *it’s on the inside of the corporate network*.

  6. >If your computer at home is compromised, well
    >now thanks to the VPN *it’s on the inside of the
    >corporate network

    This is absolutely true, which is why computers in Fortune 500 companies (such as the one I work for) are usually locked down insanely hard. I have no administrative privileges on my laptop (I don’t have permission to install anything) and a program placed on it by corporate IT trolls through and deletes anything that corporate doesn’t think belongs there every night. It’s not foolproof (and it renders the laptop useless for software development, my primary job), but our network hasn’t been compromised in several years. I can use that laptop to edit Word documents or Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations and communicate them by email and that is about it.

    I have a separate laptop that I use for software development – a laptop that is not allowed to connect to the corporate network, only to our local R&D systems (which, themselves, don’t have permission on the corporate network).

    It’s a gigantic pain, but it’s just about the only road to security when you use Windows (our production, customer-facing, machines are Linux servers, which have been exposed to the full horrors of the internet for years now without compromise).