working women

Why We Hate Writing about Marissa Mayer’s Pregnancy

Photo Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty

Photo Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty

Its the last week of summer and many Americans — including us — are enjoying a bit of a holiday.

While we’re abroad, we are watching the foreign press cover the latest news about Yahoo’s CEO as if it’s simultaneously a business issue, social issue, and celebrity gossip piece all wrapped up in one package. Earlier this week, she announced:

Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout.

When it comes to Mayer’s pregnancy, people are mainly talking about 4 things:

  1. Whether she should or shouldn’t be taking a longer maternity leave since she is a role model for other working women
  2. Whether other women should compare themselves to her
  3. Whether we should be judging or discussing her choices at all, since we might not do the same for a male CEO who is expecting children
  4. Whether it matters in terms of her performance as CEO

In other words, pretty much everything you can imagine that could be said about this topic has probably been said. Which is one of the reasons we dislike writing about her pregnancy. We also hate writing about it because we want to simply tell Mayer “Congratulations,” and leave it at that. After all, that’s the normal and proper thing to say to anyone who’s just announced news of twins.

But Mayer is not just anyone. She’s a public figure, one of the highest paid CEO’s in America, and one of the youngest and only female CEOs in the technology industry. Like it or not, her personal life is in the spotlight because she is a more glamourous subject than the millions of other women in America who have little choice but to take a couple weeks of maternity leave after they give birth. We can only assume she has made a self-actualized and well-informed decision, realizes the attention is a casualty of her position, and takes all the corresponding criticism in stride.

In the end, we decided to write about her pregnancy because it gives us an opportunity to say that we believe many women — and also men — experience biases and social pressures that make things very hard to be a whole person at work. Being a whole person means different things to different people, but pregnancy is special example simply because its physically impossible to hide, and affects so many people in the workforce.

Even in this day and age, women continue to experience discrimination because they are pregnant, and also subsequently when they become mothers. This is often despite the best intentions of companies and colleagues. These problems are persistent because they are rooted in biases (conscious or not) and cultural ideas of what it means to be an “ideal worker” and truly committed to our work.

However, that doesn’t mean progress can’t be made. We started Fairygodboss because we believe many companies and organizations don’t look closely enough at gender equality in their culture. Transparency is an important step in creating change – and Mayer has been nothing if not transparent. She has shared her own choices very openly (i.e. a short maternity leave and her on-site personal nursery) and announced big changes to Yahoo’s policies (i.e. expanded paid parental leave and restrictions on working-from-home). Whatever you may think of her personal and professional choices, at least we’re talking about things that matter to a great number of working women — and that in many cases, really should change.

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace for women by creating transparency. Join us by signing up at and reviewing your employer.

working women

Women Who Lead at Work: by the numbers

Its that time of the summer when many of us are thinking about our last holiday trips and vacations. So instead of giving you more reading this week, we decided to report some recently released numbers by the Center for American Progress.

Women have come a long way in the workplace — but check out the numbers in leadership positions across different industries below:


Disappointed by these numbers? Invite women you respect to share anonymously about how to improve their workplaces for women. Change happens because we act together.

working women

Why Netflix Should Ignore the “Haters” (of their Unlimited Parental Leave Policy)

Photo credit: stobor / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: stobor / Foter / CC BY-SA

Last week, Netflix announced a ground-breaking unlimited, paid maternity and paternity leave policy for most of their employees. We love sharing information about company policies that impact working women so we immediately started sharing the news on social media. We assumed most people would be happy for Netflix employees and the worst emotion coming out of the announcement would be jealousy.

What happened next surprised us: people started criticizing Netflix’s policy. Suddenly we were reading headlines like “Why Netflix’s New Parental-Leave Policy Could Make Things Worse for Women” and “Why Netflix’s ‘unlimited’ Maternity Leave Policy Won’t Work“. Then there were those who were rightly upset that certain Netflix employees would be left out. NPR reported that certain employees in its DVD division and call centers would not be covered in “Netflix Still Facing Questions Over Its New Parental Leave Policy.”

We think Netflix should get another round of applause.

As the saying goes: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Is Netflix’s policy “perfect”? Almost certainly, no. It only covers some of its employees. It could have been even more generous by explicitly giving 1 year of paid leave instead of leaving it up to employee discretion. They could have required that employees (or managers) take some minimum amount of maternity leave so others wouldn’t feel pressured to copy workaholic examples around them. It could have created a policy that would be easier for other companies to emulate / copy. It could have created world peace and erased all workplace gender biases. (Ok, we’re being sarcastic now).

Our point is this: Netflix is trying to do better by many of the parents at their company. They have a culture that already gave an unlimited vacation policy, which presumably was working for them despite the ambiguity. And they are trying to treat men and women equally in giving equal parental leave and not making assumptions about which gender will take on more child-rearing responsibilities at home.

So could their policy have been better, clearer, more inclusive?  Probably, yes. But should they mostly ignore all the hand-wringing and concern? Absolutely.

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace for women and crowd-sourcing maternity leave information as a free resource for all working women. Join us by signing up at

working women

Top 5 Things Women Say About Pay in their Company Reviews

Image courtesy of Stuart MIles at

Image courtesy of Stuart MIles at

Recently we searched through our member database to see what women have to say about money matters.  We were overwhelmed by their collective wisdom and have decided to condense our member insights into a list of their top 5 most common remarks about salaries and pay.

  1. Raises are hard to come by.  Women who’ve worked at the same company for a long time talk about the fact they haven’t seen meaningful salary growth.  In a way, this isn’t surprising because we all know that wages have been stagnant, on average, since the 1970s.  While we’re not necessarily advocating that you become a “job hopper”, keep in mind that when you enter a company, you may be anchored at your starting salary for far longer than you would expect.

    I can tell you the ‘no raise’ warnings were correct.”

    “NEGOTIATE your entrance salary and vacation!  You are stuck in pay scale grades and can only go up one grade at a time, which is not a big salary change.”

  2. Negotiate right at the beginning because that’s when its most likely to work.  Related to the idea that raises can be few and far between, many women say its important to negotiate at the point of a job offer.  We know its not the easiest thing to do, but negotiation doesn’t appear to get any easier over time.

    “If you have the experience and know you can give your all fight for the starting pay you deserve.”

    “New hires get paid more than people who’ve been with the company for a longer period of time.”

  3. Women don’t think equal (or unequal) pay is a secret at their companies.  The pay gap is controversial and complicated because while the statistics show women are paid 82 cents for every $1 a man makes on average, this statistic does not account for experience, position, education, seniority or anything else.  Nevertheless, many women in our community are convinced their male counterparts are being paid more than they are.  Clearly this is pretty frustrating.  The good news is that some women are just as certain that men and women are being paid the same.

    “I don’t believe the pay scale is equal and men are making more in regards to salary. I handle the same if not more responsibilities then some others on my team and I know most are making a higher salary with less experience.”

    “In the 7 years that I’ve been with this company, I’ve received several promotions and felt that I was treated equally to my male and female peers with regards to base pay and bonus.”

  4. Reduced schedules mean clearly less pay — but not always less responsibility.

    On reduced schedule- which works for me, though I’ve heard does not work for many (ends up being full-time work for part-time pay).”

  5. Some women say they accept low or less-than-ideal pay because they like their colleagues, have work flexibility, or other benefits that make up for it. While life is full of tradeoffs, we do hope that women are going into these “deals” with their eyes wide open.  Companies that are financially stretched should also take heart because this means that intangibles such as collegiality and culture can truly help retain talent that otherwise would leave.

    “In the end, I will likely stay only because I do enjoy the flexibility of working remotely and I enjoy the people I work with.”

    “The pay is low, but in return you get great benefits, more vacation days than you can use and great coworkers.”

We hope that this round-up of insights helps give you some perspective and thoughts about how to plan for your next job, salary negotiation or even your longer term career.

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace for women. Have something to add about your pay and company?  Join us by signing up at and reviewing your employer.

working women

What Top Female Tech Execs Look Like



We all know about the dismal number of female CEOs and directors in corporate America. But their small number also creates a unique opportunity to study those women who are making to the top.  We may not be investigative journalists, but we do consider ourselves keen observers of female leaders, and we’re very interested in all aspects of their career and success.  This week we decided to do some research on some of the most senior women at the largest tech companies in the Fairygodboss database.

We first looked at the executive management teams of 10 companies: Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, HP, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.  From there, we made a list of all the women (totaling 25) holding titles of either Senior Vice President or Executive Vice President.  We categorized them by business function (e.g. operations vs human resources) and to bring some focus to our research, we zoned in on the 12 women who appear to manage divisions with P&L responsibilities (including obviously the CEO and COO).


ceo business funtcion Fairygodboss

We read their official bios, google-bombed them, examined their social media profiles, and just generally tried to understand a few things about them: What were their career paths?  What were their educational backgrounds?  What else did they share in common?

Here’s what we found.  Female executives in this group were likely to be:

  • Loyal company employees with 10+ years at their current employer
  • Promoted to their current positions within the past few years
  • Married with children
  • Holders of an undergraduate degree in economics or engineering
  • Daughters of mothers they considered role models
  • Beneficiaries of a mentorship or sponsorship relationship with a current or former CEO
  • Blond, and from the west coast 

While causation and correlation shouldn’t be confused, these women appear highly loyal.  Nobody on our list could be described as a “job hopper.”  Those who spent less than a decade at their present employer, spent similar amounts of time at their prior employer.  Almost none had CVs listing more than 2-3 companies over the course of their entire career.  Perhaps this is simply a generational thing, since few millennials seem to exhibit this kind of loyalty to a company.  Another explanation may be that takes a long time to build the political capital required to get to these levels.  Once credibility is established, it might be quite costly to move.  Moreover, several women appear to have had close sponsorship, mentorship or protege relationships with current or former CEOs (Ahrendts, Wojcicki, James, Catz and Sandberg). 


tenure years Fairygodboss

Approximately 75% of these women were promoted to their senior roles recently (i.e. in the past 3-5 years).  It may be coincidental but we suspect that this timing might also be due to increasing awareness about gender diversity.  Certainly the media has focused on these executives’ gender.  Many of these women were interviewed or spoke at events where they were asked questions about their personal balancing act as mothers and wives (Ahrendts, Wojcicki, van Kralingen, Bryant, Catz, Whitman, Johnson, Sandberg).  Overall, however, these women are relatively private digital citizens: 1/3 of them don’t even have LinkedIn profiles.

A significant percentage of these women have talked publicly about their relatively modest or middle-class backgrounds (Ahrendts, Bryant, Catz), and some are on record citing their mothers as early role models (Rometty, Jacoby, Reese).  While at least half attended Ivy League or “top” universities, the other half attended local colleges.  Regardless of their alma mater’s prestige, half of these women earned either economics (Jacoby, Whitman, Sandeberg) or engineering degrees (Rometty, Bryant, Johnson). 





For further reading on these women, we’ve tried to summarize our findings and share some of the better articles about them.


Angela Ahrendts — It’s doubtful we can say anything new about Ahrendts so we thought the best thing we could do is highlight the best of what we’ve found online.  Much ink has been spilled about her tenure and accomplishments at Burberry in particular, but unlike most of her fellow female executives in this report, she is quite open about her personal life, beliefs and views on “work-life balance“. She hails from Indiana where she also received a degree in Merchandising and Marketing from Ball State University and gave this revealing commencement speech in 2010.  One significant former mentor she had is Donna Karan, who stepped down from her eponymous company recently.  Ahrendts is married with three children.


Susan Wojcicki – Wojcicki’s infamous garage was Google’s first office and after being their first landlord, Wojcicki became an early employee.  She is currently Senior Vice President and CEO of YouTube.  She has been with the company since 1998, and previously ran Google’s early revenue generators: AdWords, AdSense and Analytics businesses.  Wojcicki is a mother of five  and is well-known for her support of mothers and work-life balance.  She earned a degree in history and literature from Harvard University, a Masters in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and completed her MBA at UCLA.  Before Google, she worked briefly as a management consultant.


Virginia Rometty – Appointed President and CEO in 2012, Rometty has spent all but two years of her career at IBM.  She was previously SVP of Sales, Marketing and Strategy.  She cites her single, working mother and midwestern upbringing as the eldest of four children as important early influences o her career.  Rometty is married with no children.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering (via scholarship) from Northwestern University.

Bridget van Kralingen – SVP of IBM’s Global Business Services, van Kralingen runs IBM’s consulting business.  Previously she was the General Manager of IBM’s North American business.  Hailing originally from South Africa, she holds a Masters of Commerce degree from the University of South Africa and Bachelors of Commerce degree from the University of Witwatersrand.  Prior to joining IBM in 2004, she was a Managing Partner at Deloitte in their Financial Services Sector.


Renee James – Though news has just broken of her departure at Intel to come at the end of the year, James has spent almost her entire career at Intel. She is apparently seeking and interested in a CEO position elsewhere.  Appointed as President of the company in 2013, James was a protege of founder and CEO Andy Grove early in her career.  Prior to her role as President, she ran Intel’s Software and Services Group.  She joined Intel in 1989 via the acquisition of her former employer Bell Communications.

Diane Bryant – Senior Vice President of the Data Centers Group, Bryant  .  By all accounts very supportive of women in technology and women studying engineering, she comes from a modest upbringing in Sacramento, California.  She holds 4 patents, and is a married mother to 2 children.  She discusses her approach to work-life balance here.


Rebecca Jacoby – Recently promoted to SVP of Operations at Cisco, Jacoby was for many years the CIO of Cisco.  She received degrees from the University of the Pacific and Santa Clara University.  She advocates for women and cites her mother’s influence on her.  She is the eighth of nine children but has no children of her own.


Safra Catz – Co-CEO of Oracle since 2014, Catz joined Oracle as a Managing Director at the investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.  She held roles ranging from President, CFO and Director at Oracle and is largely credited for Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft.  She’s noted to have an unusual relationship and history with Oracle founder and former CEO, Larry Ellison.  Born in Israel, she grew up in Massachusetts and is married with two children.


Meg Whitman – Whitman joined HP as a Director on the Board in 2011 and was nominated CEO of the company in the same year.  Previously, she had unsuccessfully run for the Governor of California and prior to that she was CEO of eBay, overseeing the company from 1998-2008 when the company grew from 30 employees and $4 million in revenue into a 15,000 employee company generating $8 billion in revenue.  She is married with two children.  


Peggy Johnson – Appointed as Executive Vice President of Business Development, Johnson joined Microsoft in 2014 from Qualcomm where she was most recently Executive Vice President of Global Market Development and spent 24 years in various business divisions.  Johnson’s presidency of the high-profile Qualcomm Internet Services and MediaFLO Technologies divisions is well-known.  She is a mother, holds a degree in electrical engineering from San Diego State University and has written this piece offering advice to help women in technology.  


Sheryl Sandberg – Sandberg is a household name for her support and advocacy on behalf of women, so we will simply focus primarily on her career and educational accomplishments.  She is COO of Facebook, which she joined from Google in 2008 where she was Vice President of Global Online Sales.  She was briefly a McKinsey consultant and worked as Larry Summers’ chief of Staff for 5 years while he was Chief of Staff at the Treasury Department.  She is a mother and received her undergraduate and MBA degrees from Harvard University.

Does anything about these profiles surprise you?  Does anything about it make you think differently about gender diversity and advancement opportunities at these companies?  Share your point of view at — where women help women succeed.

working women

Do Female CEOs Make Life Better for Other Women?

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 11.27.51 AMPhoto Credit: Time Magazine

Fairygodboss members sometimes say their companies have “a boys’ club feel”.  But what exactly does this mean?  In some cases, they are literally referring to a group of similar-aged, similar-looking men with similar backgrounds running their companies.  But rarely is a company’s senior management exclusively male in this day and age.  And can a company with female leadership or even a female CEO be a “boys’ club”?

We think the answer is yes.  And we found an explanation for this in an unlikely place: Elizabeth Warren’s NYTimes best-selling book, A Fighting Chance.  Whatever you think of her politics, Warren’s story is incredibly inspiring and compelling.  Raised very modestly in Oklahoma, she was the first member of her family to attend college, and got into politics late in her career.  Time magazine ran a piece called “The Sheriffs of Wall Street” with a cover photo we’ve shown above: all 3 were women.  The article profiled Sheila Bair, then chair of the FDIC, Mary Schapiro, former chair of the SEC, and Elizabeth Warren, then chair of a panel monitoring the 2008 TARP program.  Warren reflects on the lack of women in finance:

What is it about finance that makes women so scarce in the corner offices?  And why indeed were three women now the sheriffs of Wall Street?  I can’t answer for Sheila or Mary, but I do have a thought about why I had ended up in this position: I was an outsider.  I had never inhabited the cozy world of high finance, never played golf with a foursome of CEOs, never smoked cigars at the club.

If a woman trying to advance must “fit in”, she faces an uphill battle.  Most women look and act differently to men, and there’s not much they can do about that.  Some companies recognize this and have decided to train their employees about unconscious biases that tend to be based on pattern-recognition. Biases and assumptions about women and mothers are one of the reasons women in finance – and many other industries — still remain “stuck in the middle” of corporate hierarchies.

Being an “insider” is about more than just fitting in, however.  Warren describes a dinner she had with the former Treasury of the Secretary who gave her advice about how to be more effective in politics:

He [Larry Summers] teed it up this way: I had a choice.  I could be an insider or I could be an outsider.  Outsiders can say whatever they want.  But people on the inside don’t listen to them.  Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas.  People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say.  But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule.  They don’t criticize other insiders.

Our point is this: As more women become senior managers, a ‘boys’ club’ is less literally about gender, and more about group-think.  After all, if the few strong women at the top can’t be critical of their peers, it means they’re unlikely to be advocates for dramatic change.  Its perfectly fine — and very laudable — for these top women to encourage and support other women.  They can do things like give advice, serve as a role model, mentor other women, and participate in their companies’ womens’ support groups.  Don’t get us wrong.  These are all very important things that we believe make a difference.  However, it’s much more difficult to criticize their companies’ recruitment, retention, and promotion policies even if that is where change really needs to happen.  Being critical and advocating really hard change typically means they’re speaking out against other insiders.  And insiders protect insiders.

We can’t fault executive women for this: self-preservation is a powerful, natural instinct.  Its probably one of the characteristics of these women that got them to the top, in the first place.  But it does mean that larger changes may, indeed, have to come from “outsiders”.

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace for women. Join us in our effort by signing up at and reviewing your employer.

having it all, working women

Let’s All Take A Little More Time Out to be a Mentor


Executive women are notoriously busy juggling careers, families, and other responsibilities. And yet, there is one more job that we all must take on: mentoring and providing guidance to women around us.

We at Fairygodboss and other career-oriented blogs for women like Ms. Career Girl hear consistently from women how important it is for them to have female mentors that help pave the way and demonstrate how women can be successful in management positions.

Being a great mentor or role model – whether formal or in a more informal – should be in the job description of every senior level executive. But the responsibility goes beyond the traditional one-to-one mentoring for executive woman since there tend to be fewer at the senior ranks. According to Judith Warner at the Center for American Progress, women make up 59% of the college-educated entry-level workforce, but less than 9% of all top management positions.

Often, many junior women who seek mentorship have a hard time finding it. LinkedIn conducted a study in 2011 that found that “1 out of 5 women say they’ve never had a mentor at work.” Senior level women are often perceived as unavailable, intimidating or just plain rushed. And, there just aren’t enough of them to go around.

All together, this means it’s incumbent on senior-level women in organizations to make themselves available to as many women as possible throughout the organization. This may seem overwhelming or onerous – especially because often the women seeking out counsel from you may have nothing more in common with you than being a woman. However, if we are all part of a united cause to improve retention and promotion among women, the only way we’ll get there is by pitching in an extra helping hand.

In my own career, I have been benefited dramatically from the women who have taken the time to give me advice and steer my career. And as a result, it has always been important to me to pay it forward by making time for anyone who seeks me out. When you are managing a job and a family, it can be difficult to take on this extra responsibility — but it is well worth it. And it follows in the footsteps of great women like Sheryl Sandberg who take time out of their “day jobs” to advance the cause for women in the workplace every day.

So let this be a plea – or at least a reminder – to women executives everywhere that the time and effort you put into mentoring will make a difference to women in more junior roles and to the company overall. Here are some ideas to help:

1. Carve Out Time
It’s so hard when we’re all juggling multiple responsibilities – work, home and other. But consider scheduling “office hours” or some kind of planned time when you can take short meetings.

2. Learn everyone’s name – and something about them
I learned from one of the best bosses I’ve ever had how important it is to know everyone’s name. And go one step further: take the time to know at least one thing about everyone in your office. “Sally, how was the trip to Turkey?” When you’re a junior person in a big anonymous office, it goes a long way to know that someone at the top knows you.

3. Set an example
Remember that everything you do, say, and even wear is setting an example for those around you. If you choose to be positive and enthusiastic, others will follow your lead. In that way, you can make an important difference for the performance of the department or even the company – even to team members outside your scope of management.

4. Have a sense of humor
Be serious, intelligent and authoritative. But a little levity goes a long way when everyone is working hard in the trenches. If you can intersperse a little humor into the workday, everyone is grateful – and also happier to be there. A little humor can also help communicate to a team that you have high standards but you’re human too – which is especially important for senior women who are often perceived as off-putting.

5. Be honest and open
The more you’re willing to open up and share, the more value a mentee will get from an exchange with you. There is a temptation to try to project an air of infallibility. But if you can share a story about a mistake you made, it’s sure to inspire someone even more so than a story of heroic success.

If every woman in management took just one hour a week to help support other women in the organization, the positive effects could be dramatic and exponential. And if all goes according to plan, eventually the burden on each individual should lighten as more and more women enter executive ranks. is committed to help improve the workplace for women by improving company policies and culture. Help us join us in our effort by signing on today at and reviewing your job.