Many women find their careers becomes derailed after having children as the “maternal wall” becomes an insurmountable obstacle. Motherhood bias often brings an expectation that women will have less time for work in light of increased responsibilities at home, so new mothers may be overlooked for a promotion or given fewer opportunities.
“Workplaces were built on the expectation that there was a parent at home but nowadays the majority of families are dual income,” said Greater L.A.-based Mary Beth Ferrante, CEO and founder of Live.Work.Lead, an organisation that provides coaching for companies to help them better support working parents and retain female talent. “Many women have to work and many women choose to work because they’ve put a lot of energy into building a career, and it’s a part of their identity,” she added.
An equitable leave policy for all parents is essential if we are to change the cycle of workplace bias against mothers, in Ferrante’s opinion. Employers should also provide back-up child-care support and child-care subsidies to ease the financial burden, she added.
Staying connected with the workplace during maternity leave can be beneficial to help ease the transition back to work.
“It’s important to check in with your employer about two-thirds of the way through your leave, to find out if there have been any significant changes or important new hires,” advised Ferrante. “Start reading industry publications, having conversations with your employer and picking some of your work back up.”
When returning to work after maternity leave, women should make a point of being overly communicative with their direct managers, Ferrante believes.
“Motherhood bias leads to an expectation that you want to take a step back,” she said. “You need to advocate for yourself and share what you need. Whether you’ve been off for two weeks or nine months, it’s still a transition to come back.
“Re-onboarding takes around 90 days so look at your own expectations and set yourself some goals to achieve in that time,” said Ferrante. “Be confident about telling your manager how work is going and sharing when you feel ready for more responsibility.”
Avoid making any big career changes during the first three months after the return to work, Ferrante advises.
Live.Work.Lead partners with companies to create re-onboarding programs and provides training on the “maternal wall.” It also offers one-on-one training to men and women planning parental leave and connects to new mothers through The M-Suite, a weekly publication and virtual support network.
As a former SVP in the finance industry, Ferrante is a mother, consultant, coach and speaker who founded Live.Work.Lead when she hit the “maternal wall” herself.