Returning from parental leave is not exactly easy for many mothers. Expectations of yourself are high. Unfortunately, so is the risk of ending up on the entrepreneurial sidelines. It doesn’t have to be.
“You have two children and then want to work for us?” No, that’s not from 1973, but a random day from today. Women regularly experience reactions like these when they apply, ask for more salary or professional development. Would you like another example? With pleasure, rather reluctantly: “You are of childbearing age, it is not worth it for the company if I pay you more salary now and you then go on parental leave.”
Susan J. Moldenhauer has 22 years of professional experience in the financial industry and in sales. At a financial and investment broker, she looks after well-informed clients on an equal footing. At the strategy consultancy Stategy Pirates, she supports people and teams in their professional lives as a financial and career coach. Her topics are: communication, self-marketing, salary and fee negotiations and the right attitude towards money and finances.
At work, women in particular experience at best a sniffle as a reaction when they announce that they are expecting a child. If they plan to return to work after parental leave or to develop themselves further, the reactions are even more violent, including exclusion and discrimination.
We don’t need to look at specific professions or sectors for this. Discrimination against parents or caregivers in everyday work occurs across all sectors and regardless of education or status.
In its study published on May 24, 2022, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency shows that 56 percent of the parents surveyed experienced at least one discriminatory situation during pregnancy. According to this, 26 percent of expectant mothers are deprived of responsibilities, assigned less demanding tasks or prevented opportunities for advancement.
Male colleagues also experience what discrimination feels like when they are faced with a hard wind when they register for parental leave by being pressured not to take parental leave or to significantly reduce the amount of parental leave. When returning to work after parental leave, mothers in particular experience too little accommodation when, for example, flexible working hours, home office or vacation during the daycare center closing times are denied.
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Even if the federal anti-discrimination agency calls for legal improvements, (a long) wait doesn’t help much. It is better to approach the employer proactively, to communicate clearly and to plan goals and concrete solutions with the supervisor for the time before, during and after the baby break.
This is what Florentine, who will serve as an example below, did. She is a mother of two. And ambitious. In addition, she is highly organized, focused and goal-oriented. She sets her priorities, structures her everyday work and sets clear boundaries. She started at her employer, a medium-sized company, right after her studies and continued to develop there.
Florentine is responsible for a department with 20 employees and is pregnant with her second child. She has a good network of family, friends and business connections that she cherishes and cares for. The parents from the network support each other and since both a good friend and a pair of grandparents of their child lived nearby, she was able to return to work early on after her first parental leave.
In addition, friends organized a car pool for the daycare and school children, so that everyone had a turn according to the rolling timetable and had free time at the other times.
“Know Your Worth!” by Susan J. Moldenhauer
When he found out about her second pregnancy, her boss was surprised, because he had planned for her to take on other tasks with more budget responsibility and initially seemed overwhelmed by the news. Maybe he didn’t have a replacement ready for her so quickly or he was afraid that she would stay “completely at home”.
But Florentine planned to make room for ongoing training and would be kept up to date through her existing network. She also planned to visit her existing department once or twice a month and keep in touch. Her goal was to be back at the start after a year of parental leave, but not in the current job, but to grow into the planned position with more responsibility and even better pay.
Now it was time to grieve her superior that she would be less ready or less efficient in the future and to convince him of her plan.
After we had developed a plausible strategy for her in the coaching, she went aggressively into her second interview with her boss. She made it clear that she had the self-confidence to go down this path and suggested that a transitional arrangement be made for a fixed period of time if she returned after maternity leave.
She mentioned that she was in regular contact with the company, that she wanted to familiarize herself with the new area of responsibility and that she wanted to acquire the necessary knowledge via online further training. She went into the interview with an open attitude. She emphasized her determination and that she believed she was capable of the new task. She spoke about her private infrastructure, which enables her to get involved in the new task, and her development in-house.
To do this, she asked for constructive criticism from her manager, while at the same time emphasizing how much she appreciated his work, responsibility and feedback. Based on her self-confidence, she asked his confidence in her person and her abilities.
Result: They agreed on the provision of important information during their parental leave and for the time after their return on a transitional period that was fair for both sides with mentoring and support with further training.
After her parental leave, she was able to find her way into the new position within a short time. Today she is fulfilled and content, just like her family, who see themselves as a team.
Part-time leadership positions? It depends on the cooperation of several sides.
I don’t see the “job-sharing” model via the tandem solution as a decried “mum model”, but as a flexible instrument to better meet the different demands and interests of employees in the company. In this way, a modern corporate culture can be established, which can also become a decision-making criterion in the competition for the best talent.