5 ways to balance pregnancy and your career
When Yahoo Inc. hired CEO Marissa Mayer in July 2012, the media buzz didn’t focus on her business acumen. Instead, the story was that Mayer accepted the job while pregnant and planned to take only three weeks’ maternity leave while working throughout it.
Thanks to “the mommy wars” theme in the media coverage of Mayer, stereotypes about pregnant women will likely continue to dominate our cultural conversations. Savvy employees should acknowledge this while also rising above it, according to Akilah Bradford, a human resource manager at a Chicago boutique hotel and an instructor in the University of Phoenix MBA program.
Our instructors offer their takes on how to navigate pregnancy and your career:
“The best way to combat the stereotypes is simply by performing at an exceptional level,” Bradford stresses. “It is critical that when you are at work, the water cooler discussions are about business, and not your pregnancy — that is private.”
Stay focused on the job.
While pregnancy brings plenty of stressors — not to mention lots of doctors’ appointments — business does not stop while you are pregnant, so plan accordingly, Bradford advises.
“When I was pregnant, I selected a doctor with weekend and late office hours so the doctor visits did not conflict with my school and work schedule,” she notes.
Choose your timing.
If you are pregnant while job hunting or seeking a promotion, deciding what to disclose and when can be tricky. Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women in the workplace, making your pregnancy known at the wrong time can still cost you a job, according to Bradford. “It is risky to disclose such information early in the [hiring] process,” she says.
Meanwhile, not disclosing the information can also backfire, says Gloria Davis, a human resource executive and an instructor in the MBA program.
“Candidates do not have to disclose a pregnancy when they are job hunting,” she notes. “However, they must be honest when [the employer] asks if there are any reasons they may not be able to perform essential functions of the job.”
You can’t always predict when you’ll become pregnant, but you should think carefully about how a potential pregnancy could impact your job. In addition, some companies require a waiting period before you qualify for paid maternity leave benefits, Bradford notes.
Make the tough choices.
Jobs that involve extensive travel or long hours may not be possible for working moms who don’t have the support that someone like Mayer can afford. Davis turned down some advancement opportunities while raising her kids, but she was able to accept those roles later, after her children were grown.
“Women have to make decisions,” she says, “[in order] to achieve the work-life balance that they desire.”