July 23, 2012
When I read about Marrisa Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo’s CEO, I was impressed and ready to pop the cork on the champagne bottle. Not yet 40, obviously intelligent and (gasp), a woman. Mayer’s credentials are impressive: she graduated with honors from Stanford and majored in computer science and artificial intelligence. She also helped design Google’s home page, worked for the company for approximately 13 years and was its first female engineer.
So, what’s the problem? She’s pregnant like the rest of the 4 million women in our country. Mayers alleges Yahoo doesn’t think this will be a problem and Wall Street is praying that she is correct. Unfortunately, Mayer’s pregnancy and postpartum course will be viewed with strict scrutiny. And yes, it’s because she’s a woman.
I reflect back to my days in residency training when the number of women in a traditionally male-dominated profession began to rise. When a female ob-gyn resident became pregnant, she did not receive congratulatory remarks. Instead, the resident director would be annoyed and the rest of the residents would groan in despair because it meant that they had to assume additional on-call responsibilities to take up the slack. When my chief resident became pregnant, an unmarried female attending snidely remarked “Couldn’t you have planned it any better?” There were many nights when we would be on-call and then she would end up being monitored for preterm labor. She eventually went on maternity leave earlier than expected and I was given the unexpected and unwanted position of “acting” chief resident in my third year. I was happy for my colleague but clearly did not appreciate the additional work.
As a mother of two and former infertility patient, I can say with certainty that contrary to popular belief, there will never be an ideal time to get pregnant or adopt a child. I almost missed the boat waiting for the ideal moment that never came. In the end, when the alarm on my biological clock clanged nonstop, I took the greatest leap of faith, adopted our sons and have been blessed beyond measure.
I eventually left my job of fifteen years and have no regrets. It allowed me to bond with my sons in a manner that would have never happened had I remained on that job.
I wish Mayers the best during her pregnancy but “returning to work after a few weeks of maternity leave?” She might want to rethink that statement.
September 22, 2010
An article by Jane Hansen of The Sunday Telegraph, “Maternity Leave Will Kill Your Career, Recruitment Companies Warn Women” deserves a pregnant pause. What happened to the sanctity for human life or have corporations really sunk to the lowest level of decency?
Hansen interviewed executive recruiters who are of the opinion that taking 12-months off for maternity leave in a competitive market could have deadly effects. Only 2 percent of chief executive positions are held by women and men outnumber women on boards by ten to one. The recruiters warn that if “you’re an aspiring rising star and take a year off, your star won’t keep rising.” Why are women always caught between a rock and a hard place or standing on the lowest rung of the ladder of “success?”
I recall with sadness the tongue-lashings and grueling inquisitions my female ob-gyn colleagues endured during residency training once their pregnancies were discovered. Comments such as “poor planning” and “selfish” were always hurled like epithets but our male counterparts were always congratulated.
For those of us who were naïve enough to believe that a professional career was a panacea for happiness, the decision to become a mother was sometimes challenging and inconvenient. There was always one more promotion; degree; award; fiscal or material goal to achieve or obtain before “settling” down to have a baby. We suffered from the disease to please, placing motherhood in a perennial pause in order to gain traction and momentum in the fast lane of our careers. The problem is, we ultimately hit the inevitable glass ceiling and come crashing back down to earth, shattered and childless.
There are laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of Title VII that protect the rights of pregnant women and they shouldn’t be afraid to use them. No company is exempt. Major airlines, Wall Street brokerage firms, film companies and even maternity clothing stores have all been hit by lawsuits for pregnancy discrimination and LOST. The recent victory of Shashika Jatav, an Indian airline hostess who sued Air India in 1990 for wrongful termination after her second pregnancy and won her job back after a 20 year battle is a triumph for us all.
Will maternity leave kill your career? Only if you allow it. Motherhood just might prove to be one the greatest career moves of your life. At least it is for me.
Do you know how to anticipate and manage the unexpected events that could occur during your pregnancy? You will if you purchase The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy available on Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.