When Divya and I had our son Ayaan in 2018 in India, Divya decided to quit her job so that she could spend time with him in his early formative years, beyond the standard maternity leave given to mothers. We were privileged enough to not have to think about the financial impact, which made it easier for her to make this decision.
As a father, I will be forever grateful to Divya for making that choice. As her husband, I was very worried about how she would reenter the job market once she was ready.
In 2019, I was asked to lead global operations for Udacity, a change from my then-role as the managing director for Udacity in India. This was a great role for me but would require us to move to the US. Divya, a true life partner, immediately told me that I should take the new role, while she would focus on getting us settled and looking after Ayaan during the transition. This enabled us to relocate to the US in late 2019.
In 2020, COVID hit and Divya took an even greater role of managing the home while I was working there as well. The days for me got busier — the edtech world was getting headwinds from the pandemic as more people turned to online learning. Our son was growing up fast and Divya kept on holding fort. When Divya decided to go back to work, I was firsthand witness to the challenges that she faced.
During my career I have had the privilege of working with very impressive women. The conversations that I have had with them about their struggles in leaving work for their maternity break and coming back to work afterwards have been deeply troubling. I have often heard that when a mom returns she is expected to either show up in exactly the same way she showed up before she was a mom — or it is assumed that she will not show up the way she did before she was a mom. While in the former situation it is ignored that the mom also now has children to take care of, the latter situation denies her equal opportunities at work. Both of these biases make it difficult for moms to be their authentic selves in the workplace.
As a leader, when I reflect on such stories, I can’t help but think about how much we could scale our teams with this incredibly capable pool of talent. But it will require us to make it easier for expectant moms to prepare for their maternity breaks and for moms to return to work afterwards. They were all great partners at work before they took a break to raise a child. And that does not change just because they took time off. Here are some questions we can think about:
- What are the practices to help more women stay in the workforce?
- Are managers trained in hiring and supporting young adults as they begin to consider and embark on the parenthood journey?
- When parents-to-be in the organization tell their managers that they are having a baby, is it an easy and celebratory conversation?
- Are there part time options for returning moms to ease their reentry?
- Does the company have specific roles that are structured in a way that’s attractive to returning moms?
- Can we normalize that moms returning to the workforce also have to take care of their children?
These are some of the questions we’re thinking about at Liftery. If you’d like to help out, or if you’d like to share your own story, we’d love to hear from you.