Q&A with a Maven Career Coach: Managers don’t even know their own bias about working moms

In this Maven Real Talk, Mary Beth Ferrante—a mom and Maven Career Coach—shares the key role that managers play in keeping new mothers on the job.

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Q. How can managers ease women’s transition back to work after maternity leave?

I lead manager training workshops and I often hear managers say things such as, “I didn’t even realize this new mom who works for me was nervous about losing her job.” So the first step for managers is simply to become aware of how new motherhood can put a lot of stress on their employees and simply be aware of their own maternal bias. Second, managers can learn practical ways to give women more support during this time. For instance, if the occasional late-night can’t be avoided, giving a working mom advanced notice may increase the likelihood that she’ll be able to secure caregiving. These steps may seem small, but they’re a big step in the right direction.

 

“The first step for managers is simply to become aware of how new motherhood can put a lot of stress on their employees and simply be aware of their own maternal bias.”

 

Q. How does maternal bias lead managers to make false assumptions?

The biggest problem is that managers assume that every working mother is the same. For instance, they may think a new mom doesn’t want to take on a big project or ascend the corporate ladder because she has a baby to care for at home. In reality, every woman is different. Checking your maternal bias is critical. New mothers are not automatically less committed to their roles or less ambitious simply because they are no longer available 24/7. And while some new mothers may welcome fewer responsibilities at work, you can't handle all new working moms with "kid gloves" and assume they're all not interested in big opportunities.

Q. How do managers themselves benefit by making the transition to working motherhood easier for their employees?

Every manager wants a happy, productive worker—and the best way to do that is to make sure your employee feels supported. Businesses that commit to offering this kind of support see higher retention rates and increased engagement—two factors that directly affect a companies’ bottom line.