Looking for a job is never easy. Throw in a pregnancy while you’re at it, and it becomes so much more complicated.
In most cases in the US, it’s illegal to discriminate against women because of pregnancy, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises hiring managers against asking about pregnancy in a job interview because it could be regarded as evidence of intent to discriminate.
Sadly, these laws exist in part because, whether it’s deliberate or not, people tend to discriminate against mothers (and expectant mothers).
“Motherhood triggers assumptions that women are less competent and less committed to their careers,” reads a report from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. “As a result, they are held to higher standards and presented with fewer opportunities.”
The report points to a study out of Cornell that found employers tended to discriminate against mothers in the hiring stage.
As part of the study, researchers sent employers fake, almost identical résumés with one major difference: some résumés indicated that the job applicant was part of a parent-teacher association.
While male job candidates whose résumés mentioned the parent-teacher association were called back more often than men whose résumés didn’t, women who alluded to parenthood in the same way were half as likely to get called back than women who didn’t.
The study participants also rated mothers as the least desirable job candidates and deemed them less competent and committed than women without children or men.
So what can you do to better your odds of getting the job when you’re expecting?
Look for the right job
The first thing to do in a job hunt, for any job seeker, is to find a job and employer that's a right fit for you. When you're about to become a mother, however, what you value in a job may change.
'I can say with certainty that having a child will turn your world -- and your priorities -- upside down,' says Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, who is a new mother herself.
As you review various job listings, she suggests considering what will matter most to you and your family, like a shorter commute, the organisation's parental leave policies, insurance and benefit packages, and their openness to telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements.
It's worth noting that to be eligible for unpaid parental leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, a law that provides certain US employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, you're required to work for your employer for at least 12 months. Some companies that offer paid parental leave have a similar policy.
Thankfully, a little online research can shed some light in these areas. Working Mother comes out with a comprehensive annual list of the best companies for working mums that details benefits, advancement programs, and more. And sites like Glassdoor and Fairygodboss crowdsource real employee reviews about things like benefits, pay, and parental leave policies.
Don't mention your pregnancy during an interview
'The worst thing you can do is start each interview or cover letter by mentioning your baby bump,' Augustine says.
If it isn't obvious yet, she says there's no need to mention your pregnancy at all during the interview.
'Remember, the conversation should be focused on learning more about the role and discussing your qualifications, not your family plans,' Augustine says.
If an employer does ask you about your family plans in the preliminary interview stage, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women suggests redirecting the discussion to the heart of the employer's concern.
For example, you could respond, 'If you're wondering whether I'm able to meet the demands of the job, the answer is, yes, I am.'
Avoid asking about the company's parental leave policy until you've received a job offer in writing
Whenever possible, save questions about parental leave until you're ready to negotiate your compensation package, Augustine advises.
When it's time to negotiate, consider choosing to negotiate for more work-from-home days instead of a larger paycheck, she suggests.
Put people at ease by showing how organised you are
If a discussion about your parental leave does come up with a hiring manager, be prepared to answer anything they might ask like the approximate start and end dates of your leave and how you plan to have your duties covered during your absence.
'By preparing your responses, you're demonstrating to the hiring manager how you're invested in the long-term success of the company,' Augustine says.
'Remember, in the grand scheme of things, your maternity leave will be a brief absence over the course of your career. Don't let it undermine your current job search,' she says.
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