This week, I've been in clean out mode - cleaning out my email, and cleaning up my blog, deleting old entries I started and never finished, when I stumbled upon a post about Marissa Mayer, who last year left Google to become the CEO of Yahoo. So many thoughts I felt then have resurfaced in light of her recent (and now strangely controversial) appearance in Vogue, that I thought I'd finish it.
Marissa Mayer's decision to leave Google (who does that?) to take over a long-struggling Yahoo would've been newsworthy enough to make headlines, but when news of her job change broke, the conversation about Mayer quickly shifted away from business models and projections. Soon it seemed all anyone wanted to talk about was her age, her gender and the fact that she was pregnant with her first child.
The conversation disappointed me, not to mention, bored me to tears; are we still underestimating each other based on age, gender and impending motherhood? I thought we'd moved on and had accepted that there are young, intelligent, even pregnant women capable of running Fortune 500 companies.
Apparently not, since it seems every operational decision Mayer makes at Yahoo makes its way into the headlines, from the company's beefed up maternity policy to her nixing employees' right to work from home.
This week, Yahoo topped Google in total web traffic, which is certainly newsworthy, and presumably a big win for Mayer's leadership. Only it was her feature in Vogue that anyone seemed to want to talk about. And here we go with the decades-long (read: unoriginal, tired, BORING) debate over whether women can be both powerful and fashionable.
Should a CEO be posing in a fashion magazine? Won't that undermine her position as a business woman?
Maybe my vantage point gives me a different perspective, because in both my professional and personal life, I am surrounded by gorgeous, intelligent, and yes, stylish women. I don't want to speak for anyone, but I'm almost positive that if Vogue came a callin' anyone of us, we wouldn't hesitate to enthusiastically say YES, without wondering if there was a deeper meaning or if our intentions in doing so might be misconstrued as something else.
I mean, it's a photo shoot. For Vogue. Can't it just be that?
I almost did a back flip in my house when I read TIME writer Anna Holmes say so eloquently exactly how I feel -
" . . . the debates . . . make me yearn for a time when female competence in one area is not undermined by enthusiasm for another, in which women in positions of power are so commonplace that we do not feel compelled to divine motive or find symbolism in every remark they make, corporate policy they enact or fashion spread they pose for."
What's funny is that these elements of Mayer's personality that many find to be at odds (A computer nerd who likes Oscar de la Renta? Whaaaat?) are the very ones that I think make her so very interesting - she's a Stanford graduate, the first female engineer hired at Google, a board member at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the New York City Ballet. When she got married, she threw an extravagant wedding that included a musical performance by the Killers. She plays Candy Crush on her iPhone and, surprise, surprise, she loves fashion.
I’m equal parts inspired by her, intimidated by her and convinced that despite her off the charts intelligence and success that she and I could actually hang out and be friends.
The more I've read about Mayer, the more I think I have finally found a person who is living, breathing proof that women can indeed have it all. Only Mayer herself wouldn't say that's the case.
In fact, a couple of years ago, in remarks she made at the Campaign for the American Conversation, Mayer said, "You can't have everything you want, but you can have everything that matters to you."
At that same event, my Twitter pal (and newly appointed Director of Digital Innovation at TIME) Callie Schweitzer had the opportunity to ask her, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?”
Shockingly - Mayer didn't say, "Once you become a CEO, abandon your personal interests and only do business executive-appropriate things," nor did she say, "Stay away from Vogue fashion shoots for it might undermine your authority."
Her response: "Find your rhythm.”
Find what matters to you and make time for it.
That, of course, involves identifying what matters to you, which for me has been the most challenging part of the equation. But as someone always seeking balance in my life and who often feels that there aren't enough hours in the day to do all of the things that I want/need to do, Mayer's advice makes so much sense to me and brings calm to a subject that usually gives me much anxiety.
Mayer has always loved fashion - so when Vogue actually did come calling her - and in staying with her own rhythm, of course she agreed to do it. Must we assume she did so at the expense of running her own company, or to the detriment her own image?
Why? Because what everyone else thinks likely doesn't matter to her.
No, you cannot have it all - including the approval of every journalist and blogger about every decision that you make. But the things that you really care about? Well, those are yours for the taking.
So if it's cupcakes, or Irish goodbyes, or computer coding - and in Mayer's case, it's all of those things - find your rhythm.
"You can't have everything you want, but you can have everything that matters to you."
So find what matters, and go get it.