Why Every Female Executive Should be Over 40 & Childless

Earlier this week NextGen’s blog went viral with an article from a 2012 recent grad who stated, that every social media manager should be under 25.  I read the blog.  It was ridiculous. I got angry, and then I had a moment of clarity.  The author is young, inexperienced, and clearly lacking the bigger picture of the history of the Internet, but more importantly how limited our point of view can be without walking a mile in someone’s shoes.  This is not unlike many’s view on the newly appointed 37 year old CEO, Marissa Mayer who happens to be expecting a child early next year.

Catherine Sloan, the author of the NextGen article, sounds exactly the same as much of the media’s opinion and impression of working mothers.  Seriously, I’m sick to death of it.  I’m rooting for Marissa, and as a once new mother to a now almost 4 year old daughter, I had no idea what I was in for.  But Marissa has something I do not, the experience as she is 7 years older than me when I had my daughter.  She also has other things I did not — like support from her board of directors and the financial means to hire the staff and nannies to care for her child.

So instead, the media makes hasty opinions and statements without all the facts.  Possibly with the goal of creating a contrary point of view to drive numbers, website traffic, going viral.  Or maybe it’s something else. . . just plain old fashioned dumbassery.  I hope for the former, but I have a hunch it’s the latter.  This goes for the NextGen article as well.

Can a Female Balance Being Pregnant and a CEO?

When the news media criticizes Yahoo’s decision to hire a pregnant CEO, I take it personally because I was faced with my own pregnancy and motherhood  discrimination so to speak.  At age 30 and just a few weeks before my maternity leave was scheduled to begin my boss took me aside and asked me about my little bambino as he liked to call her.  My manager who was male, unmarried, and in his 50’s stated what he believed was an important advice that I could not be a mother and continue to work.  In fact, he suggested I take my maternity leave and not return back to work whatsoever.  The idea had never crossed my mind.  It’s managers like my boss and the media that fuel the point of view that every female executive should be over 40 and childless to be successful.  Well, we can’t all be like Oprah.  Thank God!

The Female and Woman Midlife Crisis at 30

There’s a battle going on with women and for many it’s an internal battle we face.  Some call it the Midlife Crisis where woman between the ages of 27-35 begin to re-evaluate their lives.  These women have put their personal lives, family, and passions on hold to prove to the masses that women can do it all — meaning achieve their personal and professional dreams flawlessly dressed and with a smile on their face.  Except it doesn’t always work out this way with women realizing around 30 that their biological clock is ticking and that personal happiness and professional success don’t always mean the same thing.

Interestingly enough, psychologists are also saying that men experience a similar although not exactly the same phenomenon.  The anxiety of life and goals are weighing on their minds.  At the moment, I’m halfway through a most interesting book called Midlife Crisis at 30 (affiliate link) which discusses how women are coping with their life fairytale unraveling differently than they had planned, and how women like Marissa and also myself are re-evaluating and making changes in their lives.

Can Women Have It All?

So I applaud Marissa and other strong women for taking charge of what matters by taking a step back and realizing that we (women) and our dreams can’t wait.  We can work toward a plan to have it all.  I wish Marissa the best success because what she is hoping to do will help the next female generations and a host of bad managers realize that there is more to this world than money and success if you don’t have happiness and someone to share that success with.  And it’s okay that woman want that too.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Heather Bussing says

    Women can have it all, but not without support-both at work and at home. Everyone needs help and support to do our jobs and to make our relationships work. (I know, Obama just took a rash of crap about pointing this out–if perhaps, inartfully.) We do not do our jobs or raise our families in isolation. So wondering whether and how a talented woman with lots of resources can have a high powered job and a family is rather silly. Millions of women do it every day.

  2. Molly Buck says

    I am fascinated by the discussions about women and work in the last few months. As a working professional and mother of teens, I can tell you that it does not get easier to balance work and child-raising as children get older. Car pools, sports, other activities and girlfriends continue to drive the need to be present in your children’s daily lives.

    I was fortunate enough to work part-time, in a professional capacity for about 10 years. I was salaried and adjusted my hours based on projects and gradually increased from .6 to 1 FTE over the years as my kids moved through elementary and middle school. It allowed me to be a good mom, stay sane and contribute to my organization in a significant way. I also contributed to the volunteer economy in my community and schools. More organizations, HR functions and women need to advocate for and support part-time work. It is beneficial to both parties.

  3. shennee says

    Jessica. It is an awesome article. I read that post about social media managers being 20 something, It really annoyed me. I am in awe of all you mom’s that are also fantastic careerists. I know it can not be easy but you all amaze me.

    Although I do not have children, I am proud to be among such great company. I am 40 something and I love my life. It can only get better. Live life with out regrets.
    Rock on girl. I am so proud to have you as a friend, and confidante.



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