(Because once I get onto a topic, I break it down: We've already discussed why there's no reason to expect a female CEO to be nice to working parents and how telework is only a symptom, not the disease, in an ailing company. Now comes the third and, I hope, final post on the Yahoo thing.)
Like a lot of Generation X kids, the VCR hit my childhood right at the moment when my brain was soaking up pop ephemera and incorporating it into my moral development, which would explain why I could recite entire blocks of dialogue from 9 to 5 by the time I finished fifth grade.
I am not kidding when I say that movie is one of the formative works in my feminist canon. And here's why: Because it does not set up personal fulfillment and professional fulfillment as separate and mutually exclusive goals.
Not to spoil a movie released 33 years ago or anything, but the climax of the movie features upper management touring Consolidated Industries and marveling at how happy and productive the entire workforce is now that they have job sharing, on-site daycare, a lack of consequence-free sexual harassment, training that lets employees fulfill their potential, etc. The epilogue features all three heroines using their experience to springboard into what Oprah would call your best life. The message was clear: You can have it all, so long as you think creatively about how you're going to do it.
I realize the prevailing cultural drumbeat aimed at working parents (read: mothers) is that no, you can't have it all [*]. And the very phrase "work-life balance" implies a delicate, perpetual tension between two mutually exclusive elements.
But 9 to 5 insists otherwise. And if Marissa Mayer is smart, she'll pick up the core lessons from that movie: Make coming to work a perk.
Right now, coming in to the office at Yahoo is going to feel punitive. Something has been taken from me! But what if you provide compelling reasons to come to the campus? Not penny ante food trucks (so 2012!) or foosball tables, but reasons that let people feel as though "work" and "life" don't have to be balanced in opposition, like on-site daycare or a low-cost concierge service to handle those household errands you can no longer knock off between code builds at home. Recast this so that coming to campus seems like a privilege, and that working from home reduces the conveniences that help you have it all.
9 to 5 justifies its second-wave workplace utopia by pointing to the profit-generating results it produces -- which is the kind of double-edged sword that can come back to bite you if a workplace policy is good for employees but bad for business. It also underlines the idea that achieving personal and professional fulfillment is dependent upon the whims of a CEO. Which ... the CEO giveth and the CEO taketh away.
There's ample evidence that societies are plenty productive and fulfilled when sane work-life policies are set at a national level. That is where any real and lasting change in how people can manage to have it all will start.
But until then, maybe Mayer can rent 9 to 5 and take a few notes on what Doralee, Judy and Violet do to turn Consolidated Industries around. It'll be great PR -- and good for the bottom line.
* Which is hogwash, because you can have it all, for any given self-defined values of "all," so long as you don't conflate "trade-off" with "obstacle" and instead call it what it is: "opportunity cost."