In June 2014 I hosted an online conference to highlight the impact our misunderstanding around pregnancy and the transition to motherhood is having on the pipeline of female talent and rise of women to board level to create a more gender balanced workplace.
The event was born from a frustration of hearing the same stories over and over from female executives working in the City. Where some companies seemed to build a strong level of commitment and loyalty with their pregnant execs, others were failing miserably.
Human Resources contact was functional rather than with feeling. Meetings with Managers were hit and miss, perhaps dependant on whether they had children or not, and many appeared to be operating without any clear structure or precedence in place to manage a senior level pregnancy.
Starting a family can be a fork in the road. A time to acknowledge your career and work achievements but a time for change and to embrace another side of yourself. Some women know their focus and heart-felt desire is to be a full time mother and returning to work takes on a more transactional aspect or plans are set in motion to step out of the corporate world altogether.
But it can also be just a bump in the road. Supporting a strong, capable, intelligent woman who has made conscious choices and possibly sacrifices for her career and is driven by an inner desire to realise her potential, play a larger part in the world and feels a genuine passion for what she does, requires different management and support than a women who in her heart is not fully connected to her company and its long-term growth.
I support female executives who are in the latter camp, to become ready to return to their career, more focused, more creative, more productive and ultimately more valuable than they were before they had their baby, and I observe closely as they transition and react to the different ways their companies and colleagues behave.
Many are still greeted with a subtle underlying culture that appears to lack respect and truly workable solutions to support their new mother self, highlighting a simple lack of understanding of the key times when a company can step up and provide better support and where colleagues can be better educated as to the long term picture rather than the short term.
Ultimately it comes down to value.
Your previous investment towards that employee and the value you have seen returned, alongside the value you believe they are capable of producing in the future.
The value of creating a more gender balanced organisation for the financial, moral, social and intellectual reasons which make strong business sense and are simply good, common sense.
With clearer and more open and honest communication, deeper understanding and a genuine commitment to gender balance, the true value of motherhood can be realised and embraced by business to ensure the full potential of their female talent is realised.
What that is worth I would say, is priceless.
A second round of Bumps and the Boardroom conversations are taking place Spring 2015 with a wide variety of change-makers pledging their support, their business experience and their personal insights to lead the way in creating a more gender balanced workplace. If you would like to be involved email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.