The most powerful new mom in the U.S. showed up in my mailbox yesterday -- the morning after she gave birth to her first child. So I couldn't help but do a double-take when I saw Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer on the cover of Fortune for its annual '50 Most Powerful Women' issue. Mayer looked gorgeous and fit -- and yes, powerful -- in a slim black dress and belt. What she did NOT look was 39 weeks pregnant.
Given how the issue date (October 6) coincided with Mayer’s due date (October 7), you have to wonder what happened here. Fortune clearly used an old photo of Mayer, who was named the 14th most powerful woman, for their cover. Did Mayer refuse to have a photo of herself pregnant appear on the cover?
As an expectant mom and CEO of a $5 billion public company, did she simply not have time for a new photo shoot? Or did Fortune’s editors purposely not request a current photo of Mayer, believing that her svelte figure would portray power in a way that her baby bump would not?
More from The Stir: It's Not 'Forbes' Fault Men Are 'More Powerful' Than Women
Either way, what a missed opportunity for Fortune, for Mayer, and for moms like me everywhere. Like it or not, Mayer is a new role model for working moms. As the head of a massive public company, she’ll be scrutinized closely to see exactly how she manages trying to have it all. How much will she work while on her (albeit abbreviated) maternity leave? How will she handle childcare while working long hours at the office? Will she breastfeed and pump after returning to work? How does she manage her work-life balance so she actually spends time with her new baby boy?
Unfortunately, appearing on the cover of a magazine about powerful women in the same week she gave birth, while looking about as non-pregnant as someone can look, implies one thing: moms aren’t cut out for the business world.
Mayer could have made an amazing statement by appearing pregnant on the cover. The so-called “mommy wars” have taken on renewed vigor since Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent article about "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All." Mayer’s pregnant cover photo would have been an inspiration to moms who are still trying. On a list where the number one slot went to a woman who happens not to have children, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Mayer would have been making it clear that moms can be at the top too. She could have said loud and clear that women can have bumps as well as brains.
Why neither Fortune nor Mayer chose to make this statement is a mystery. Since her appointment, Mayer hasn’t been shy about her pregnancy. She publicly announced it the same day Yahoo announced her as the new CEO. She has made it clear that the Yahoo board knew about her pregnancy before she accepted the job. And she even tweeted a picture of a baby gift from some of her new staff members -- an adorable Yahoo! Layette set -- to her 229,000 followers.
Perhaps Mayer will have an explanation when she resurfaces. Though hopefully for her and her baby -- and for all of the working moms who still believe in non-working maternity leaves -- that won’t happen too soon.
Do you think Mayer should have posed pregnant for Fortune’s cover?
This post was written by Rebecca Phillips
Image via Fortune