Relevant Findings from the survey
- Primary motivator for women to return to work was career/personal growth with only 11% saying they need the
- Of the various solutions that could improve their return and retention after maternity, flexibility (66%) topped the list.
- 60% felt managers inadvertently sabotaged careers
- 59% felt organisations viewed pregnancy & motherhood as dilution of commitment to work. Only 15% believed they have equal opportunity
- 82% felt they had to constantly re-iterate their commitment to work when pregnant with 95% doing it proactively
- 71% felt that their roles were unnecessarily diluted as a reaction to pregnancy
- 57% felt pregnancy was an easy exit route if their jobs or work environments were not exciting.
- 30% of new mothers fear ‘being left out’ of critical roles, key decisions, training etc due to new “life” status with 74% feeling they compromise career aspirations once motherhood hits them
- Interestingly, only 36% view reasonable actions to accommodate pregnancy as an entitlement with 42% believing it is a favour extended by the organization.
- 40% say they tolerate insensitive behaviour as they feel disadvantaged/vulnerable in their condition
Based on this information, and the various qualitative responses received, it is abundantly clear that one of the key initiatives to ensure that women return and stay in the workplace is hugely dependent on their experiences with the organization. And, managers, as the primary touch point on this play a critical role in creating a enabling and supportive environment to facilitate this.
As a sensitive issue, most men and women avoid conversations on the subject with important decisions being taken at informal conversations without a structured way to approach the entire process. I have therefore decided to provide a framework on which a manager can self-coach himself or herselfon the sensitivities involved at this time.
Starting a family is both exciting and stressful for employees. While whether to quit a job to care for a baby or not, is an intensely personal decision; a manager’s sensitive support can help women make informed decisions of their continued participation at work. Proactively enabling the work environment to accept parenthood as an integral part of every employee’s life cycle, can be a key differentiator in retaining women at work.
Based on this insight, I decided to create a coaching manual for managers to help them manage pregnant and new mothers at work that pre-empts and works through the challenges of the transitions out and into the workplace (Appendix 1)
Self-coaching guidelines on managing maternity for Managers
Managers often confess to mixed reactions when an employee informs that she is pregnant. “As a manager, some of the typical questions that come up are:
- What does this mean for the work team? What changes would I need to make?
- Will she be able to perform and deliver as required?
- When will she go on leave? Will there be too many demands?
- While on leave, who needs to take up her responsibilities?
- Will she want to quit working after the baby? How can I keep her motivated?
These questions can make you anxious and concerned. At the same time, it is important to have realistic answers to these questions.As this is an important business requirement, managers are encouraged to consider the following to help them through the process:
When the news is broken…
As a manager, the fact that an employee is pregnant is unlikely to be pleasant news. Yet, this is an important event in her life. What might be the best way to acknowledge the news?
Would she be okay if you were to share the news with others/team? Sometimes, she may want to keep it confidential and so it is best to check rather than assume that you can tell the team.
What kind of support can you offer to reassure the employee of your support? Eg: your availability to answer questions, support in terms of rest, visits to doctors, foot stools or such other special accommodation etc.
During the pregnancy
Consider all the ways in which you can get a better understanding of how she is coping and where you may need to support her. Some questions to think about:
- How frequently must you hold regular meetings?
- Would she need to alter her regular working hours for doctor’s appointments or to address pregnancy complications if any?
- Can you be flexible by switching shifts, extending lunch breaks and consenting to a reasonable amount of time off or working from home if possible?
- Is she stressed from the physical and emotional pressures of the pregnancy? Sometimes women say they feel their teams expect them to work extra to make up for their forthcoming time away from work. Some are made to feel guilty by comments that make them out to be “irresponsible” for being pregnant.
- How can you assure the employee that she has your support and that if she feels bullied or excluded she can come to you?
- Are there others in her network who can help her during this time? Are there any specific concerns you must address? Must you meet with her husband or family to inspire him/them to be an active participant in the changed circumstances.
- What are your own assumptions and stereotypes if any of new mothers? Any beliefs that pregnant employees create unreasonable demands? Any general assumptions about what pregnant employees can and can’t do. Are you in any manner making assumptions about her continued interest to work?
- How can you stay alert to not depriving her of herrightful claim to a promotion, or a challenging project or similar recognition? Must you discuss the possibilities with her before you make a decision?
- Have you made plans about the realignment of roles (replacement staff?) when she is away? This will allow time for an effective handover, and ease any professional concerns whilst she is on leave.
- Have you considered how you will handle things should there be a change in plans of the employee? What if the employee plans to take a longer stint of leave or even a temporary break from work?
- Most women going on maternity leave are stressed about tying up loose ends and organising the take-over of their role. How can you acknowledge this and support her? Would it help to provide a “buddy” during this time?
What else must managers watch out for?
- A pregnant member in the team is not work-as-usual in most organisations. Resentment builds when others are expected to pick up the slack when the pregnant employee or new mother is not around. Sudden medical requirements of frequent rest or other kinds of accommodation may make it a little difficult for the other team members. As a manager, it is important to be aware of it and think through ways to manage this.
- As a manager how must you be prepared should a pregnant woman need urgent medical care? Do you have emergency numbers available readily?