Match Group CEO resigns to prioritize health, says 'personal needs' matter at work

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Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg opened up about her decision to step down from her job. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg opened up about her decision to step down from her job. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg shared her “emotional and complex” decision to resign from the internet company that runs Match.com, after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene.

Ginsberg, 50, of Dallas, Texas, who had served as CEO for 14 years, explained her March 1st resignation in a Monday essay for Fast Company: “It was an emotional and complex decision. I was asked, ‘Why would you give up the hard-fought top job at a $20+ billion public company for personal reasons?’ and, ‘You are at the top of your career and you are choosing to walk away?’”

“I knew the biased assumptions my decision could prompt among the troglodytes who still question women leaders,” wrote Ginsberg. “I also know how important it is to change this antiquated notion that there is no place for personal priorities in the C-suite. This job has been the most fulfilling and impactful role of my career. But a one-two punch of personal issues forced me to take a step back and reprioritize.”

Ginsberg explained that after the October tornado, a series of which caused a reported $2 billion in damages throughout Texas, her family was displaced. Throughout the stress and her nonstop work schedule, Ginsberg missed voicemails from her doctor stating that the FDA had recalled her breast implants, which she got after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene.

The mutations of the gene, along with that of BRCA2, can raise women’s risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Ten years ago, after her mother and aunt had died of ovarian cancer in their 60s, Ginsberg underwent a preventative double mastectomy, hysterectomy, and oophorectomy, the latter procedure to remove her ovaries.

“People ask me all of the time if it was hard dealing with all of these issues and keeping up with a demanding career,” Ginsberg wrote in a 2017 Medium post. “I felt lucky in that regard. My boss was supportive — he even put pressure on me when I was going to delay the surgeries saying he needed me alive. His best friend’s wife went through the same surgeries. I never for a minute felt guilty or embarrassed and he completely stepped up over those weeks to fill in the gaps in my absence; so did the rest of the executive team. I know that doesn’t always happen and for that I was grateful.”

Now knowing that her breast implants were unsafe, “This would mean another round of surgery to remove and replace my implants, along with a weeks-long recovery,” Ginsberg wrote in Fast Company. “This would be my fourth surgery to prevent breast and ovarian cancer. After sitting down with my husband over the holidays, I knew there was no way I could balance my personal needs and my job as CEO.”

Honesty came naturally to the mother-of-two. “We spend so much heart, energy, and time at the office, and work has always been personal for me,” she wrote. “How could I stop being personal now?” Ginsberg also wanted to spread public awareness for BRCA testing, offering statistics from the Basser Center for BRCA that of the 25 million people worldwide with the mutation, only 10 percent are aware of it.

She disclosed all in a company-wide email and in turn, employees opened up to Ginsberg about their own health. “Maybe talking about breast implants, homes, and health are not standard topics for most CEOs to discuss,” mused Ginsberg. “Maybe that’s because most CEOs are still men.”

“Historically women have been told to leave personal issues out of the office, but how is that even possible when our careers are so personal?” she wrote. “It takes strength and courage to be open and honest about personal challenges and even ask for help.”

Vulnerability is “empowering” although Ginsberg admitted that she once hesitated to share her pregnancy or even schedule a doctor’s appointment during work hours. “Today we can talk about physical health, mental health, aging parents, or sick kids,” she wrote. “I think the business community is better for it.” She challenged male and female executives to share “the struggles and sacrifices they make on a daily basis.”

According to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees can take unpaid, job-protected leave for ”a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job” (paid leave isn’t guaranteed), federal law allows mothers time to pump breast milk in private rooms and in September The Wing CEO Audrey Gelman became the first "visibly pregnant CEO" to pose pregnant on a business magazine (the cover of Inc.). Still, disclosing private health information can be intimidating.

“It makes sense that a CEO would assess her own path forward and make decisions that include the forward trajectory of a company with her own,” Rachel Sklar, co-founder of TheLi.st, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s also true that high-functioning people get sick...this is a good case model for acknowledging humanity.”

In her internal note to the company, published by Axios in January, Ginsberg wrote of her departure, “I ultimately made the decision that this is the best timing for me personally, and for the business.” That, says Giovanna Lockhart, chief strategy officer of The Riveter, a platform uniting women and allies to advocate for equity of opportunity in the workplace, is smart management. “CEOs have to put in 110 percent,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “One might keep their job with half the effort, but that wouldn’t be in the company’s best interests.”

Lockhart adds, "Working women have many layers — whether they’re wives, moms, or sisters. We’re responsible for many people. Instead of women feeling as though they need to hide themselves, we need to peel back these layers so we can support each other better. By sharing their stories, it will show corporate America that these experiences are more common than we think."

Not every female leader fighting for change can take advantage of policies for which they advocate, says Lockhart, but “Ginsberg is normalizing self-care.” She adds, “We should view people who make good choices for their health as good employees.”

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