The discussion around the hiring of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer clearly hit a cultural nerve. Can a woman have it all? How will she balance work and raising a baby? Are these topics inherently sexist?
But I have become far more fascinated by the question that almost no one seems to be asking:
Will Mayer's husband stay home with the baby?
I don't know and Mayer hasn't discussed it. Still, it speaks volumes that the possibility he might opt to be a stay-at-home dad is not even part of the discussion.
I'm not really surprised. Despite all the progress women have made in education, politics and business, one cultural reality has remained stubbornly resistant to change: We expect women to raise our children.
"The default position still seems to be that if a woman and man both have a job, it's the woman who will take a step back and stay home with the child," said Brad Harrington, research professor and executive director of Boston College's Center for Work &Family. "But it never seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to ask why wouldn't the man make the same choice."
Even Mayer, in her limited remarks after the news of her pregnancy broke, didn't broach the topic. Instead, she emphasized, probably to soothe Yahoo investors' concerns, that she'd only take a couple weeks off and that she'll work through her maternity leave.
Many have noted that she's already wealthy thanks to her years at Google that she'll have
And let's be clear: How Mayer and her husband, Zachary Bogue, who runs an investment fund called Data Collective, choose to parent is, of course, entirely their business.
But it's remarkable that his role never seemed to come up.
Almost certainly men of this generation are far more involved in raising kids, something driven by changing cultural expectations and economic necessity. According to Harrington, both parents now work in 75 percent of families.
However, the number of stay-at-home dads remains a minuscule 3.4 percent. Women remain overrepresented on the home front, while still being underrepresented in places like Congress, where they hold 16.8 percent of seats, or Fortune 500 executive positions, where they hold a mere 14.1 percent of jobs.
Now, you might have seen headlines recently proclaiming, "Number of stay-at-home dads doubled over the past decade!"
That is both true, and misleading.
According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau in May, there were 176,000 stay-at-home dads in 2011, more than twice the 81,000 reported in 2001. Sounds impressive, right?
But, that number is only up from 143,000 in 2005. And those numbers are still dwarfed by the 4.976 million women who stay home full time to raise their kids.
"The rate of change is still somewhat surprisingly slow given the improved career prospects of women," Harrington said.
So what's going on? It's still a bit of mystery to researchers. But in general, the image of man as the bread winner remains strong. And for men who do stay at home, they find they're in a lonely minority. I took a year off to stay home with the kids back in 2006, and most days when I looked around the playground, it was me, a few moms, and a lot of nannies.
Still, Harrington is hopeful that this number will change as women close the wage gap and cultural norms shift. Indeed, in a survey of 1,000 men he conducted, he said 53 percent reported they would have liked to stay home with the kids, even though most did not.
Even if he's right, it appears the pace of change on the home front will remain glacial. And even that's no guarantee unless we include the dad in the discussion of who is bringing up baby.
"Should her husband be part of the discussion?" Harrington said. "Absolutely."