Google’s 20th employee, Marissa Mayer, made headlines left and right for becoming the new CEO of Yahoo! last week and then revealing that she’s pregnant with her first child, due in October.
Whether you think Marissa Mayer should take maternity leave or not, whether you think she’s a feminist or not, whether you think she has a chance at turning Yahoo! around or not, one aspect of Mayer’s professional life isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves: Marissa Mayer is also a member of Walmart’s board of directors, as of last month.
As a woman, and a pregnant woman at that, Mayer will be a sort of a pioneer in her role as CEO at a major tech company. Yahoo! is widely regarded as needing a turn around, and Mayer is the company’s fifth CEO in as many years. Still, orchestrating Yahoo’s comeback isn’t the only major task on Mayer’s plate.
As a member of Walmart’s board of directors, she is responsible for overseeing the largest private employer in the U.S., at a time when the company is facing a bribery scandal in Mexico, accusations of forced labor at an American supplier, and unsafe working conditions in its contracted warehouses.
At Walmart’s June 1st annual shareholder meeting, Mayer witnessed the efforts of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), a group of past and present Walmart associates working together to improve conditions at the company. Inside and outside the meeting, members of OUR Walmart demanded better corporate governance and improved working conditions, such as understaffing in many stores – and they won cheers from thousands of Associates brought to the meeting by the company.
Since Mayer’s nomination to the Walmart Board, members of OUR Walmart have tried repeatedly, in person and in writing, to open a dialogue with her about challenges at the company. So far, OUR Walmart hasn’t heard back from Mayer, a stark contrast from Mayer’s recent invitation to open dialogue with Yahoo! employees.
Marissa Mayer deserves congratulations in her new role—and a reminder not to forget her other responsibilities. Walmart faces a growing list of troubles—including gender discrimination charges, accusations of unsafe working conditions in its contracted warehouses, and the Mexico bribery scandal. As a Walmart director, these problems at Walmart are now Mayer’s problems as well. As she steps into her new leadership role at Yahoo!, she also needs step up to lead at Walmart; otherwise, these scandals will envelop her like they have enveloped other board members. Of course, she could always choose to leave the board too.
Walmart associates hope Marissa Mayer will choose to step up and be a leader.