There are few expressions, in a work-related context, as loaded as this.
‘Having a baby’ is used so often to justify myriad assumptions that are not always accurate.
A baby doesn’t, automatically, erase a woman’s professional achievements, her ambition nor her desire to pursue work that is commensurate with her experience. It doesn’t mean she will only ever want to work part-time, take an entry level position and never be open to travel.
In many cases what women want after having a baby is what they wanted before: the opportunity to work in an effective and productive manner, to be treated with respect, to be paid equitably and to be valued.
Our recent Ambition Report showed that 66% of women who have taken a career break are actually looking to increase their salary and earning potential.
Yet in the year 2019 that is very rarely the assumption made about women who have had children.
Too often, it seems, employers and recruiters go the other way and assume if it’s not a cottage craft position that can be fulfilled between 10am and 2pm it will simply be beyond the capacity of any mother.
Alice Almeida is a data and strategy specialist with 17 years’ experience in media who has learned this the hard way.
A post she put on LinkedIn about her demoralising search for a work after having her first baby promptly went viral.
All the roles she’s been offered since having a baby have been paying at least $70,000 less than she was earning in her last position.
In an op-ed Almeida wrote for Mumbrella, asking if she’s really worth $90,000 less a year since becoming a mum, she expressed frustration and disappointment that her experience was so relateable.
“Women from all over the world – Belarus. Canada, New York, China, Ireland, New Zealand, and mostly Australia – all shared their own experiences with me. The common theme was that most had given up trying to get a job back in the industry and had decided to either try something new or start their own business.”
It is nothing short of a travesty that experiences like Amy’s are prolific. So too women getting made redundant while pregnant or returning to work after parental leave, as Natalie Garcia recently shared.
Alice Almeida offered some sage advice to employers and recruiters engaging with women who happen to have had babies and much of it centres around the idea that it’s time to stop making assumptions about what women want.
Start conversations. Ask women want they want. Think outside the box about how jobs and work can be designed. Consider the fact that far from diminishing an individual’s skills, parenting fosters a host of new skills. Remember that, in many cases, there are two parents often capable and willing to share the care.
If you are making assumptions about what a mother wants, chances are you’re off the mark.