RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
When a friend or family member is expecting a baby, it makes news on Facebook. When the CEO of Yahoo is pregnant, it's news all over the world. Marissa Mayer announced this week that she and her husband are expecting twins in December and that she plans to take, quote, "limited time away" and, quote, "work throughout."
If Mayer wasn't a woman, would we pay attention - probably not. But Hanna Rosin says we should be paying attention, and that's a change of heart for the writer and host of the podcast "DoubleX Gabfest" on Slate. We spoke with her earlier today, and said when the Yahoo CEO had her first child a few years ago and only took a few weeks off, Rosin thought people needed to back off.
HANNA ROSIN: It felt weird and oppressive to say to her, you have to do this for the sake of womankind, you know, to put one woman in the position of a symbol when she has transmitted many times that she doesn't want to be that, that she works in a certain way. She's running a company, for God's sake. So it just felt wrong. Like, I know that you can perfectly well raise a child with lots of help and continue on your CEO way, and I want that possibility to exist for women as well.
MARTIN: That was your position previously.
ROSIN: Exactly. That was my position previously. So what's changed the last couple of years? I am realizing that Silicon Valley is increasingly setting the standards for the American workplace. For example, there's a concept of unlimited leave. It's been popping up in companies on the East Coast everywhere.
MARTIN: Richard Branson did this with Virgin.
MARTIN: Netflix recently has announced, I think, up to a 12-month policy for parents.
ROSIN: Yeah. And this is, like, a very chill Silicon Valley idea, you know? You can take off forever. You just have to work it out with your boss. It seems terrible (laughter). It just seems like it puts the burden...
ROSIN: ...On every woman. It's such a Silicon Valley notion that, like, it's all cool; we just work it out. We don't have HR. We don't really have rules. But what it means, then, is the burden is on the woman to work it out with her boss who may be...
MARTIN: Or the father.
ROSIN: Or the father, who may be awesome, may be bnot awesome, may be a work-all-the-time kind of guy, may be a family-friendly kind of woman. You just never know what kind of boss you have. So in that context, I feel like Silicon Valley is just taking us in the wrong direction. It's, like, taking us away from what we need.
MARTIN: So you do think Marissa Mayer has a responsibility.
ROSIN: This is what I've decided for - are you listening, Marissa? This is what I want you to do. I want her to say she's taking a maternity leave to put out the symbol that she's taking a maternity leave for the world to see and then do whatever she wants. That's what I want.
MARTIN: So you're suggesting she...
ROSIN: Fake it.
MARTIN: ...Fake it.
ROSIN: Yes. That's what I'm suggesting. I mean, come on. We all know this. I don't need to say it all the time. The United States of America is ridiculous. We don't even have the very floor basics of a maternity leave policy down yet. We have family and medical leave, but it's unpaid. And we all know that many people can't take it. So I wish - until we get just that basic thing established, then we need all the help we can get. And so we need someone who's as powerful a symbol as she is to take some maternity leave and then she just work all the time.
MARTIN: So you think the needle's not going to change until there is someone of her ilk who does this because, you know, she's entitled to make her own choices. And as you have pointed out, she doesn't necessarily want to be that. She doesn't want to be the symbol for women who can, quote, "have it all" or - engaged in this debate about it at all.
ROSIN: At all - and I'm asking her to take the hit.
MARTIN: It that doesn't happen - if a CEO like Marissa Mayer doesn't make that kind of statement, what will create change? What will move corporations because we need to point out there's a real financial cost to creating more liberal parental leaves.
ROSIN: I actually think it's men, at this point. Like, I think there's just a - the generation of men actually want to spend time with their families. This is measured. We know this about younger men. They value this. So I think as that pressure builds from men who are valuing family time more, there'll be a subtle shift in the way corporations deal with children and parental leave and childcare, that it will be less of just a woman's issue. It'll be just an issue for everyone, and I think maybe it'll take the edge off of it.
MARTIN: You think it's not going to come from lawmakers, from policy. It's going to come internally from what employees demand.
ROSIN: I don't think so. We've tried many, many times. We've had child care debates in the '60s. Those were a disaster. You know, the Family Medical Leave Act was extremely difficult to pass, and it's unpaid leave.
I mean, if we have Hillary Clinton as president, will that create a slightly different atmosphere - probably will create a slightly different atmosphere. But I'm not sure what that will lead to. I mean, it's weird. It seems so far away for us to have (laughter) something so basic as, say, like, four weeks of paid maternity leave. It really feels like a distant dream in America. And it shouldn't, but it does.
MARTIN: Hanna Rosin is a writer for The Atlantic and Slate. Thanks so much for talking with us, Hanna.
ROSIN: My pleasure.
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