Kellogg Dean: Marissa, You Can’t Have It All

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Dean Sally Blount has a few words of advice for newly named Yahoo! Chief Executive Marissa Mayer. A long-time Google executive, the 37-year-old Mayer announced that she was six months pregnant with her first child shortly after news broke of her Yahoo! assignment.

In my experience, it is a rare woman (or man) who gets to have it all — that is wonderful children, a wonderful marriage and a deeply satisfying career,” Dean Blount wrote in a brief essay today (July 20) for Crain’s Chicago Business. “We all have to make tradeoffs and experience some disappointment and heartbreak — at some point.”

Bount should know. After graduating from Princeton in 1983, she went to work for a design and architecture firm. She also did a stint as a consultant for Boston Consulting Group. Then, in 1988, she came to Kellogg’s Evanston, Ill., campus for her Ph.D. “I had a kid after my first year of graduate school and another in my third year and graduated in my fourth,” she told Poets&Quants in an earlier interview. With her Kellogg doctorate in 1992, she joined the faculty of rival Chicago Booth School of Business. For the next ten years, she buried herself in research to get tenure.

In an essay that appears as if it is an open letter to Mayer, Blount notes that “each of us is given one life to live — along with one set of gifts, opportunities and challenges…Mothering is really hard work, as is building and sustaining a marriage. So is resetting the trajectory of a large organization that needs to find its way amidst a competitive landscape and rapidly changing world. I know because I’ve walked similar paths. I’ve raised three wonderful children while also enjoying a very fulfilling career. But it hasn’t always been simple or predictable or fully in my control.”

Blount laced the piece with a good deal of praise for Mayer. The result:  Her words are carefully couched so as not to come off as a harsh warning or criticism.

“Ms. Mayer is brave for taking on all that she has in her life,” Blount wrote. “She doesn’t need me or anyone second-guessing her choices, what she can balance and what she can’t. This is Marissa’s one life to live, her one tapestry to create.”

Chicago Crain’s Business published Blount’s essay today online, but said a longer version of the story would appear in its print publication on Sunday.


  • Mh

    The title of the article seems to suggest that Dean Blount is criticizing Ms. Mayer when, in fact, this is not the case. I suggest more thought be given to article titles so as not to give off the wrong impression.

  • Wg

    Of course balancing is always a tough act, but I’m sure Marissa has thought long and hard about it… she’s 6 months pregnant after all (it’s not like she found out she was pregnant 2 weeks after being named the new head of Yahoo and the world is caving in on her).  She signed up for a tough battle.  I’m sure she knows this, having made her career at Google(ahem, Google is the reason why Yahoo is losing market share).  It’s no secret Yahoo is a tough gig.  

    I don’t think any of the tough challenges coming her way are surprises at this point.  I’m pretty sure Marissa is well aware of the challenges coming her way.  It’s true she might fail, but we shouldn’t count her out of the game just yet.  Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  In the end, it’s up to her, her husband, and her child, and how they all work together.  Remember, men balance family and career all the time.  They manage to do this through the strong support of their spouse.  Without knowing her spouse well (if he’s willing to pick up some of her slack, the child may not necessarily be neglected, unless you are going to be presumptuous and say men can’t raise their children well, even if they put effort and time into it), and the future neediness of her child (how easy-going and low maintenance a child is, i think, is pretty much genetic, so if she’s lucky, she may have a child that will love her regardless of whether or not she comes home in time for dinner).  We can’t count her out of the game just yet.  Whether or not things go well for her depends very much on the support she has as much as it does on her approach.