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.