Women are pushing their way toward equality in the workplace, but it’s still common to be nervous about notifying managers of a pregnancy.
We spoke with experts to get to the bottom of why women are afraid to talk to their bosses about issues like getting to doctor appointments and taking maternity leave. Additionally, we sought advice on how women can best prepare for the initial conversation and ways in which employers can create an environment where their workers feel comfortable doing so.
Women are often afraid to tell their managers the news because they are “concerned about the potential of being passed over for a promotion, getting treated like they’re not really part of the team and generally feeling invisible at the office for several months leading up to maternity leave,” according to Vicki Salemi, an Upper East Side-based career expert with Monster.com.
The level of wariness about the situation can also depend on factors like “how long you’ve been working there and whether your boss is male or female,” added Julie Holmes, an NYC-based life coach.
A woman might feel more comfortable with a boss she’s worked with for a long time, and even more if that manager is also female, she said.
How to prepare
It’s common to notify an employer three months into a pregnancy, around the same time the future parents make an official announcement to friends and family.
This might seem early, but “in all fairness to your boss, they need to start making plans for your maternity leave,” Salemi said. “It will give you and your boss peace of mind if you’re able to wrap things up with plenty of time knowing your workload will be covered.”’
Before you have the chat, plan out specifically what you’re going to say, and then find time to have a private meeting with your manager.
“Someone who is worried about telling their boss that they’re pregnant should strategically prepare what they’re going to say ahead of time,” Salemi said.
It’s also wise to know your rights regarding your maternity leave ahead of time, Holmes added.
“Go on Google and figure that out [or] you can go to human resources and ask them before you go to your boss,” she said.
As an employer, creating an environment where workers’ personal lives are valued is a good step toward making them feel comfortable discussing pregnancies and other issues, noted Jason Saltzman, founder of co-working space Alley, which is headquartered in Chelsea.
Alley’s co-working spaces are known for being mom-friendly, and their lactation rooms are among the highest-rated in the country by Elle.com.
“Rather than looking at it like, you’re going to be out of work, or what are the ramifications that this is going to have on the business, [see it as] the health of this person is more important,” Saltzman said.
Companies that adopt this viewpoint will see a benefit in the long-run, he added.
“The companies that accept the pregnancies and things like pregnancies in people’s lives, and they embrace that and are understanding, are going to attract better employees,” Saltzman said.