The pregnancy journey and transition from single self to mother offers a huge opportunity for positive growth, and the ripple effect can ensure it is felt by colleagues, managers and the business community at large, for huge commercial benefit.
The changes in the brain and the hormonal shifts that occur, act as natural catalysts for inner reflection and a reassessment of priorities and connection to deep heart-felt desires. If well managed this can result in a deepening connection with all relationships, including your company and career, with an increased focus on really making a difference. You can fall in love with your newborn and your growing family and you can fall out of love with your work or you can fall in love with all areas of your life and pursue your goals with renewed vigour and commitment.
Yes, your time may be more limited but your productivity and focus can go through the roof. Just look at women who have businesses they are passionate about. Natalie Massenet, Helena Morrissey and Karen Mattison are easy examples that spring to mind but I have worked with hundreds of female executives who become more focused, committed, enthusiastic, passionate, and loyal if the respect is there, post baby. And many can do in 3 days, what they used to do in 5.
The belief that mothers lose their ambition is just not true. If women are doing work they enjoy, this continues and expands.
But somehow the default is that pregnancy = hassle, uncomfortable conversations, lack of commitment, lack of availability, increased cost and lower returns. Outwardly we congratulate a new mother but inwardly we think of having to “pick up the slack” and cover the times they are looking after their children. You can almost see the bright light of a career fading into the distance, even before the little one has arrived.
We see flexible working as a challenge rather than as a smart way of managing talent, maximising performance and valuing needs outside of the office.
How else can we explain the recent Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) programme of research to investigate the prevalence and nature of pregnancy discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace and the fact that so many mothers I speak to feel the need to work until as late as possible in their pregnancy to somehow prove that having a baby won’t change things. Of course it will. But for the better!
Based on interviews with 3,034 employers and 3,254 mothers the two surveys covered the views and experiences of employers and mothers on a range of issues related to managing pregnancy, maternity leave and mothers returning to work.
Whilst the majority of employers reported that it was in their interests to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave and they agreed that statutory rights relating to pregnancy and maternity are reasonable and easy to implement, the research found that around one in nine mothers (11%) reported that they were either dismissed; made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not; or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave; and one in five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer and /or colleagues. If the numbers are scaled up this could mean as many as 100,000 mothers a year are being affected.
Download the full report here.
Headlines have screamed about The Shocking Report the Tories Hoped Working Women Wouldn’t See and an online project Pregnant then Screwed has been set up to “expose this injustice and together make a case for recognition, respect and change” encouraging “women to post their stories anonymously, giving victims a voice, while demonstrating how systemic the problem really is.”
Change is needed and I see sharing stories as a cathartic but rather than focusing on the negative experiences, let’s put our energy into the outcomes we want to see and propose positive expectations for what is possible.
Our bias’ and beliefs around pregnancy didn’t spring up overnight and like most conscious or unconscious thought patterns, they need a good shake up.
TEDx Covent Garden Women speaker Emma Barnett in The Secrets Snails can teach Women about Success (aka the invisible barriers that stop women succeeding, especially in the workplace) says “too many women lose custody of their own ambition”. Her observations highlight the purveying presumptions many inwardly have; the “Nice Guy Misogyny” that’s prevalent in men who’s wives gave up work when their children arrived, and the women who mimic their mothers despite outwardly saying they seek a more modern, shared parenting experience.
Building and re-building trust and changing deep cultural patterns takes effort. Managers need to build strong and resilient relationships where transparent and open dialogue happens naturally throughout the journey. Before maternity leave commences, during the leave and post return. Women need to do the same. Viable and reasoned flexible working requests need to be expected and accommodated. For new fathers too.
We ALL need to take responsibility for the current situation, and find better solutions for moving forward. Pregnancy and new motherhood provides a catalyst for extreme growth that can be good for us all.
In realising the pregnancy advantage to bring about a more intuitive and heartfelt business consciousness we can celebrate new life and ensure businesses thrive. There are thousands of talented women waiting for this to happen. Open your mind. Is your company going to be leading the way?
Follow me on @bumpsnbabyguru #pregnancyadvantage
Learn more about my Signature 7-step Pregnancy Advantage Method for Individuals and Business and my Maternity Mastermind programs.