- Rebecca James was hired as an executive at Prospa when she was just seven weeks pregnant.
- Taking into consideration her personal experience and core values, she chose to tell the founders during the hiring process.
- Her advice to women in a similar position is to know what you want once you’re hired.
What to expect when you’re expecting… and you’ve landed a job interview.
It’s a common conundrum for women who find themselves on the threshold of a fantastic new career path while they’re pregnant: Do you reveal to your future employer that you’re expecting?
“I believe that it’s not something that women should feel that they need to hide in any way,” says Rebecca James, CMO of Prospa.
“Having a child is absolutely a joyful experience that shouldn’t be something that is hidden. You’re setting up a future relationship with a prospective employer, and the best way to set up that relationship is being honest.”
James was hired by Prospa in September last year when she was in the early stages of her pregnancy.
“When they told me that I was the preferred candidate, I told them at that point that I was at the very early stages of my pregnancy, so that was at the seven week mark… and I think I started to work for them when I was about 20 weeks pregnant.”
While that may seem very early, James revealed that her path to motherhood had not been an easy one following previous miscarriages and fertility treatment, and taking that into consideration she felt it was the best decision.
“It was a really pertinent decision for me. Do I share that news so early in my pregnancy with the prospective employer?” she said.
“If you’re someone who’s been through that experience, and then you’re communicating that you are pregnant, it’s an emotional conversation to have.
“But despite what people may say, or any negativity around it, for me, the personal decision was to be very much open and honest about it, at that very early stage.”
When she told the founders, Beau Bertoli and Greg Moshal, her news, they were elated.
“It did not impact their decision around me being the preferred candidate for the role in any way, and that it was full steam ahead in their eyes,” she says.
“There was no pause, it was go-go-go-go-go from their perspective.”
James admits however, the horror stories of women who have been overlooked for a job or promotion because they were pregnant did cross her mind but “anywhere that was not going to hire me was not somewhere I would want to work” in her view.
“I just felt that my own values are ones of honesty and transparency; and I guess its a good test to see whether those kinds of qualities are used and reciprocated in where you’re going to seek employment,” she said
“Beau and Greg have an incredibly strong emphasis on equal opportunities, an incredibly inclusive environment. So their response to me, when I did let them know that I was having a baby, just reinforced their own values, and the alignment with my values.”
Then it came to figuring out benefits like maternity leave.
James said the best thing she did at this stage was to have a clear idea of what she wanted in her contract.
“I’d already thought through all of that and was just able to have the conversation, with all of that information for them to then consider,” she said.
“And, again, they didn’t hesitate. I was given eight weeks paid maternity leave.”
It’s all about the fact that any organisation looking to form a relationship with prospective employees has an eye on the longer term.
“They’re thinking of relationships that are five years plus, within tenure within the organisation,” she said.
“So, taking maternity leave when you’re thinking about the length of that relationship potentially being five years; taking 16 weeks out to have a child is a very small proportion of the time, when you think about the longevity of that relationship.”
In hindsight, James says that being preparation and having a clear vision is the best advice she can give to pregnant women in a similar position. Be up front so everyone has the same view on what success looks like.
She also said its important for women and employers understand that not everything may go according to plan.
“I had a health situation during my pregnancy, and the result of that was that my baby needed to be born early, and I needed to be induced. That meant I needed to finish up work earlier than expected,” she said.
“Everybody needs to understand, at the end of the day, that you can’t control everything, particularly when it comes to having a child.”
Since returning to work following the birth of her child, James said the workplace has been supportive and accommodating.
“It’s been fantastic, and they have a really have a great level of understanding,” she said adding that the founders were also new parents.
“I received an email from Beau, who just had his little girl, and it was recommendations on all of the things, the great brands and things that he’s found with his daughter — the best swaddles that he felt were useful, car seats, the brand of pram that they like, all of those things.
“I can’t imagine many workplaces where a male CEO is sending an email with hints and tips of things that they’ve found worked for them with their daughter.”
She said the company even set up a breastfeeding room for her so that she could express during the day.
“By having these kinds of practices and things in the workplace, I see it as a huge step forward towards encouraging women to continue to pursue their careers and pursue leadership positions within organisations.
“And I think it’s one of the biggest signals that an organisation can send, with regard to the levels of female leaders that they want within their organisation.”
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.