Despite the growing list of companies offering family care benefits, a startling percent of women in tech say they still feel pressure from their employers to prioritize work over family needs.
A whopping 83 percent of women in the tech sector who have had children at their current company say they felt some sort of pressure to return to work during parental leave, according to Indeed’s recent survey. In addition, 59 percent of women say they are given fewer opportunities for advancement than their male colleagues. ReCode, a technology news website that focuses on business in Silicon Valley, explained three reasons why survey participants felt pressured to return early.
- 34 percent said they were directly pressured by colleagues or managers
- 32 percent feared losing their jobs
- 38 percent cited a fear of losing credibility or value
With most of this pressure coming from the workplace, how do we relieve this pressure and welcome our new moms back into the workplace?
Here are five ways you can welcome new moms back from maternity leave.
- Make a plan.
As maternity leave approaches, make sure your team is communicating and puts a solid coverage plan in place. Work with the employee going out on maternity leave to transition any projects as needed, clearly identifying deadlines, deliverables and points of contact. Make sure the plan also covers how the employee will resume her responsibilities after returning from leave. Having that plan and documentation in place will make it less stressful for all those involved. Make sure your team feels like they've got it covered while she's away; also knowing she'll reclaim her projects when she returns should help relieve any fears of losing value while she's out on leave.
- Communicate on her terms.
Leave it to your employee to dictate communication during leave. Let her decide how much contact she’d like and what she would like to be updated on (ex. any developments at work, like new staff or colleagues leaving, or a promotion or job opportunities). When she reaches out, show you’re interested and excited for her to return. This will help find balance between showing her that she matters to the team without making her feel pressured to return before she’s ready.
- Be understanding and empathetic.
Maternity leave is no vacation. Maternity leave is about bonding, recovery, and ultimately, returning to work. Avoid referring to maternity leave – weeks or months of feeding, burping, pumping, and sleeping only when the baby does – as a vacation or break. If you can’t relate to her situation yourself, help her connect with colleagues who can. Introduce her to a group of fellow moms in the workplace who can help her and other new moms get reacquainted too.
Here are 15 things you should never say to new moms back from maternity leave.
While not entirely necessary, a gift from the team is a great gesture. It can be as small as having the team welcome her with flowers, a card or a basket of goodies at her desk, or organizing a team lunch. Do something that makes her feel special and welcome. It really is the thought that counts. When she comes back from leave, she’ll most likely want to share photos, videos, and stories of her bundle of joy. Even if you’re not a baby person, listen and engage and let her know how excited you are!
- Offer Paternity Leave.
Sounds counter-intuitive. How could paternity leave help women take paternity leave? Well, offering paternity leave – and encouraging men to take it -- begins to re-frame parenthood and caregiving in general as something all employees do, not just the women. This strips away some of the stigma and works against some of the biases -- conscious or unconscious -- against women in the workforce. Go a step further and offer more family care benefits, like backup child care, resource and referral services or flexible work arrangements, which will help new moms as they transition back to work from maternity leave.