Why A Career In PR Doesn't Have To End When You Go On Maternity Leave
Even today, there is often considered to be a stigma attached to pregnancy and childbirth in the world of work. Indeed, recent research by South Bank University in London found that approximately half of the professional women they surveyed felt their careers had been negatively affected by the fact they had taken maternity leave. Of course, this should never be the case for any woman, and at Reuben Sinclair, we are committed to helping women, and employers, avoid any feelings of prejudice when it comes to parental status.
An Unfair Image
The negative effect on the careers of the women in the South Bank study were not due to the realities of taking time out of the workplace. After all, many professionals who have taken sabbaticals for various reasons have returned to their jobs without much difficulty. Instead, it appears that women who take time out in order to have a baby are being subjected to unfair and discriminatory attitudes, which are taking a significant toll on their careers as a result.
Women in the study referred to having many microaggressions directed at them, starting from their pregnancy itself. Ranging from insulting references to "preggy brain" through to being assigned menial tasks far below their typical job description. Perhaps more seriously, women also reported they had missed out on promotions and pay raises as a result.
These findings have been borne out by a similar study conducted by employment lawyers Slater and Gordon, which revealed that 42% of women found workplace attitudes towards them changed following their pregnancy announcement.
The result of this poor treatment has meant women routinely found themselves feeling pressurised to cut short their precious maternity leave. Only 12% of women take the full twelve months permitted by law, with 18% of new mothers returning to their desks within just four months.
Whilst three-quarters of those returning to work early expressed regret, it is telling that the majority of reasons cited for doing so centred on fears about their careers. 30% felt that their managers would not support them in taking more time off, and 39% worried they would lose their job entirely by staying home.
Re-framing Maternity Leave
Needless to say, it shouldn't be this way. For women working in PR, taking the time away from the office can be an unrepeatable opportunity to both bond with their new arrival, and to reflect on where they want their career to go next. It's the perfect time for new mothers to consider long term goals and objectives, such as where they want to be in five or ten years’ time, career-wise.
Legally, you are provided with ten “keeping in touch” days which serve as a valuable tool for reaching out to your employer and reminding them you are very much present, despite a major life change. How you manage these days is up to you, the law is there to protect you from unnecessary contact regarding work, not to cut you off and make you feel isolated. It is often worth using these days to discuss what you would like to see from your employer, and how they can assist you both during your leave, as well as on your return, including the transition period. Opening up a two-way dialogue now will be a huge benefit to your ongoing career and future working relationships.
Employers often assume everything has changed once a baby has arrived, so don’t be afraid to speak out about the choices you want to make for your career. Make it clear you still have your eyes on that promotion, or you’re seeking more variety in your role when you return in the months to come. You work in PR, so be your own PR Manager when it comes to your career.
Use your return to work following maternity leave as a golden opportunity to touch base with managers, key stakeholders and clients and reassert your commitment to the company and your role. Many women return to the workplace feeling more ambitious, determined and passionate after having a baby – there is no reason why it should ever be couched in terms of negativity.
Deciding To Move On
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