Sheila C. Johnson Approves of Working From Home

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Gloria Steinem and Sheila Johnson. Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned employees from working at home, the new mother was criticized for taking flexibility away from other working parents. Yesterday, news broke that Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is also discouraging employees from working remotely. At the Women's Media Awards last night, Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder of BET, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, president of the WNBA's Washington Mystics, and a film producer, weighed in on Whitman's decision. "I'm not quite sure where she's going with that," said Johnson. "But I know within my own company — and I have over 2,000 employees — I do have flex-time for men and women. So I'm not going to say it's a gender issue. I just think that life has gotten so complicated that sometimes I do worry about children and the way they're growing up. There are times when parents have got to be home, but we also can still work from home and still be able to accomplish just as much."

Gloria Steinem, on the other hand, sees a case for Whitman and Mayer's position that work should take place at the office. "There seems to be some rationale for that, because so many people are working at home that they've lost their communal spirit," she said. But, she added, there's a bigger argument at stake here: "This is the only advanced democracy in the whole world without a national system of childcare," said Steinem. "All this stuff about two people is just a way of distracting us from making a bigger change."