A Pregnant Question

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MarissaRecently, Marissa Mayer was appointed the CEO of Yahoo! She is a 37 year old woman who by all accounts is happily married and on the same day she announced she was leaving Google for Yahoo! she also announced that she and her husband were expecting their first child, setting off a flurry of concern/frustration/congratulation/speculation. One of which gave me pause:

Forbes writer Francine McKenna wondered aloud in print, whether Yahoo! needed to disclose to investors Mayer’s pregnancy, implying in her article that while the pregnancy was announced the same day, Yahoo! didn’t mention it in their official release about Mayer’s appointment:

Yahoo’s press release made no mention of the fact that Mayer may be taking some time off soon to care for herself and a new baby.

McKenna goes on to point out that Apple had an SEC investigation opened after they didn’t disclose issues with then-CEO Steve Jobs’ health. As many have pointed out, fatal cancer is not the same as a healthy woman having a baby. I feel that I should have to type this but pregnancy is not a disease.

What does employment law have to say about this non-conundrum? Quite a bit, as any practicing HR professional will tell you. Yahoo did not have the right to ask Mayer (although at six months pregnant they may have known) and Mayer had no obligation to disclose the fact (although she did and Yahoo! did not presumably, care).

So onto the listing exchange rules, which McKenna states is the basis for her query.

Yahoo! is listed on NASDAQ where Rule 4310(16) requires that: “except in unusual circumstances, a Nasdaq-listed issuer shall make prompt disclosure to the public through any Regulation FD compliant method (or combination of methods) of disclosure of any material information that would reasonably be expected to affect the value of its securities or influence investors’ decisions. The issuer shall, prior to the release of the information, provide notice of such disclosure to Nasdaq’s Market Watch Department if the information involves any of the events set forth in IM-4120-1.”

So, although she was only able to obtain quotes from analysts who disagreed with her implied premise, McKenna went on to delineate how Mayer’s pregnancy at 37 may be a health concern. For any woman looking to both procreate and set her sights on an leadership position in a publicly traded company, the fact that this question (which again violates employment law, if not good taste) was even raised, should matter. (The United States is one of the only industrialized nations without mandated maternity leave.)

Why because WWP (working while pregnant) is hard enough. Business pundit Brian Sullivan appeared on Morning Joe to analyze Mayer’s announcement she would take maternity leave but work from home. “Take some time off…work on the company when you can..” said Sullivan, intimating that Mayer may be in for a rough road ahead….and further intimating that she may not be up for it.

“It’s a sample size of one, and it’s hard to know if this represents social change. I certainly have hope, but most of the evidence shows that there’s substantial discrimination of pregnant women who are working,” said King, who’s an associate professor of psychology at George Mason University with a focus on women and the workplace.

A substantial discrimination of pregnant women who are working for sure, for if analysts can ignore an employment law that has been on the books since BEFORE I WAS BORN, listing exchange rules and the very formiddable track record that Mayer holds to insist that a woman cannot take on a big job and a new baby at once, what hope is there for the rest of us? In fact, pregnancy discrimination cases have been on the rise for the past 10 years, with this years number topping those claims made in 2010.

Read more in Employment Law

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B Marketing Agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the Human Resources and Global Workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.
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