"The Reality of Maternity Leave on Women’s Careers" by Rita Kakati Shah at Uma

Women constantly face a number of issues at the work place…

One of the most prominent issues is having to choose between their career and if they choose to start a family one day, then childcare. An ambitious, successful woman returns from her maternity leave feeling underutilized and unappreciated because of having to work under someone less experienced than them or are given less projects now. In the end, women either quit work or settle for a less deserving position. Having to take a career break to take care of a newborn is a stressful decision for most women because of the problems they face once they return to work.

Last year, Canada extended its paid parental leave program from 35 weeks to 61 weeks, which came as a relief to most working parents who now have the opportunity to spend more time with their newborn. The new policy was implemented to enforce greater work-life balance as well as permit parents to spend more time with their newborn. This extension is a boon for parents but is regarded as a cause for concern for women.

Having a longer maternity leave is beneficial since it helps lower maternity stress and reduce infant mortality, but is still a worrying thought for mothers to be who have to put their career on pause for a few months. Results from a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that 48 percent of new mothers said they were not considered for promotions because they had children. Research suggests women who take advantage of longer maternity leave have fewer chances of being promoted or getting hired for new jobs once they have returned to work. Furthermore, women have to deal with the perception of their coworkers. If a woman takes a short maternity leave and returns to work early such as Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, she is criticized for being a bad parent but if she takes a longer maternity leave she is regarded to be less committed to her job and is at the risk of being fired or demoted. In fact according to this study by Harvard Business Review, women are 50% less likely to be called for an interview if their résumé has a career break due to childcare, compared to if the break was due to getting fired.

Companies can help their employees who are new parents lessen career stress and enjoy their time with their newborn by introducing the “Keep-in-touch” programs (Harvard Business Review, 2018). This program is a great way for parents on leave to keep in contact with their work and coworkers while they’re away. The program pairs the person on leave with one of their coworkers who can keep them updated on all the projects and updates at work. This changes perception of coworkers and improves the impression they have of the parent on leave. Introducing flex-time also improves work-life balance for both men and women. Further, encouraging men to take paternity leaves allow women to take their leave in parts (Harvard Business Review, 2018). This not only helps women’s careers to succeed without the negative impact of longer leaves but also allows them to bond and take care of their newborn.

Companies such as Uma was founded to empower individuals after taking a career break. “Confidence is key. Motherhood is 24/7 but you don’t get recognition for it because you’re not paid.” Important tips and techniques are shared in this candid Startup Pregnant podcast by Uma Founder and CEO, Rita Kakati Shah as she delves into successful transition back to work after a career break.

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