A week ago, I received a call from my former colleague and dear friend. She is an exceptional professional, having achieved great success in her career and recently securing an executive role where she oversees a department of 100 people.
During our conversation, she revealed that her position had been impacted by a recent round of layoffs. Initially, I thought that with her impressive track record and valuable skills, finding a new job would be a breeze. However, as I listened, there was a moment of silence before she confided, “But I am pregnant and due in January. Who will hire me now?
My immediate response was concern and surprise, “Can they really do this while you are pregnant?” Then I remembered that she lives on the other side of the Atlantic, where such unfortunate practices are possible in some regions.
I tried to comfort her, emphasizing that with her skills, knowledge, and past successes, she would undoubtedly find a new job despite being pregnant. She is someone who has consistently achieved significant successes and made a positive impact in all the companies she worked for.
However, after we hung up, I couldn’t help but dwell on her situation and how, even though we are in 2023, things regarding women and maternity leave have not changed as much as they should have.
It’s disheartening to realize that the challenge of being perceived as an attractive employee diminishes when a woman is pregnant, regardless of her skills and successes. Pregnancy still seems to overshadow other qualifications in the process of finding a job. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that there are companies that make exceptions and value the skills and experience of pregnant candidates, but unfortunately, these companies are in the minority.
Furthermore, I have observed that even if women manage to secure jobs while pregnant, they frequently encounter additional challenges. They might feel appreciative to the company for hiring them despite their pregnancy, leading to a sense of indebtedness to the organization.
This sentiment stems from the fact that such cases are still relatively rare. Unfortunately, maternity leave is often perceived as an indication that women may not return to work or that they will be less driven and committed to their roles after becoming mothers. These biases create a disadvantage for pregnant candidates, perpetuating a lack of opportunities and support.
A significant aspect missing on the company’s side is the acknowledgment that there are women who want to embrace both motherhood and a fulfilling career. For many women, having a career is a source of fulfillment and personal growth. However, the prevailing understanding within some companies seems to overlook this desire, leading to a lack of support and understanding for pregnant employees.
One potential reason behind this lack of understanding could be the limited representation of women leaders within organizations. Having more women in leadership positions can foster a more empathetic and inclusive environment, where the unique challenges faced by working mothers are better understood and addressed.
Women leaders can advocate for family-friendly policies, flexible work arrangements, and improved maternity support, which in turn can contribute to breaking down barriers for pregnant candidates.
For companies that perceive maternity and pregnancy as a hindrance, let me assure you that nowadays, women are driven, ambitious, and eager to make a significant impact. They possess exceptional skills and talents that can bring immense value to any organization.
It is essential for companies to recognize that pregnancy does not diminish a woman’s capabilities or dedication to her career. In fact, becoming a mother often amplifies a woman’s drive to succeed, as she seeks to create a better future for her family while continuing to contribute her expertise to the professional world.
In today’s progressive society, women are breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings in various industries. They are leading with resilience, juggling responsibilities. This is precisely the kind of commitment and dedication that every company should desire and cherish in their workforce.
While writing this article may not solve all the issues we face, there are impactful actions that people in high positions can take to make a difference:
Lead by Example: Women in leadership positions can serve as powerful role models by demonstrating that it is possible to have a successful career while also embracing motherhood. By openly sharing their experiences and showcasing how they manage work-life balance, they inspire other women to follow suit without fearing that it will compromise their careers.
Mentorship and Support: Offering mentorship and support programs tailored specifically to pregnant employees and working mothers can be immensely valuable. Women in leadership can provide guidance, encouragement, and practical advice on navigating the challenges of combining motherhood with a high-powered career.
By engaging in these actions, women in high positions can create a positive impact and pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive work environment for all women. Although there are still challenges ahead, every step taken towards empowerment, mentorship, and support brings us closer to a more equitable and fulfilling future for working mothers.