Marissa Mayer created a lot of buzz last week with her simultaneous announcement that she was selected as the new CEO of Yahoo and that she is expecting a baby in October. Coming on the heels of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article about “having it all” in the Atlantic last month, this story is helping to keep working women in the headlines.
While we’re thrilled that the issues we dedicate ourselves to every day are back in the media spotlight, we’re disappointed that many stories about Marissa Mayer’s announcement dwell only briefly on the challenges facing millions of women who lack the resources and choices available to her. Not only does the news coverage leave working women largely in the shadows, it also overlooks the role of working men: where are the articles about male CEOs who are expecting a new child?
We seem to be entering another “Opt-Out Myth” moment, where news articles (like this one about executive women taking shorter maternity leaves) focus on the experience of the minority (high-powered, wealthy women) at the expense of the majority. There are some benefits to shining attention on the elite few, including the impact their examples can have on dismantling harmful stereotypes. But in neglecting to cover the challenges facing workers in rigid jobs with no legal guarantee of time off, we are missing an opportunity to engage the public and generate the attention necessary to improve work/family balance for all workers.
Thankfully, some of last week’s media coverage took a different tack, including an excellent Op-Ed by Sharon Lerner in the Washington Post, and this story in the Los Angeles Times, featuring A Better Balance’s own Dina Bakst. Just today, Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in the Nation about the campaign for paid sick days in New York City, calling out the media for paying too little attention to this critical issue while generating lots of heat about Marissa Mayer. We need more of this kind of coverage, and more reporting to expose the ugly reality facing most Americans who struggle to provide for their families and care for them at the same time. The United States is currently failing its families, but we are working to change that. At A Better Balance, we are pushing for policy reforms to guarantee paid maternity, paternity and family leave, paid sick time, reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant women and flexible/predictable schedules for family caregivers. But we can’t do it alone. We need the media to highlight these issues, and we need the public to get engaged.
If you’re with us, please share this blog post, and any other articles on this topic that inspire you, with your networks. Maybe you’ll even feel moved to write a letter to the editor or ask your elected officials why we’re not doing more as a country to support our families. Let’s create some new headlines together!
Cross-Posted on A Better Balance’s Blog.
For more information on how we can change public policy to support working families, please visit www.abetterbalance.org.