I wasn’t sure whether to blog about this or not but here’s the letter I wrote to my former employer on 13th April as part of the Pregnant Then Screwed & Guilty Mothers Club ‘Dear Employer’ campaign. Mine was perhaps not the most shocking situation there, it was just fairly typical of how the working mum was treated, and frankly it was NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I felt strongly enough about it to write in. I received a reply and a request to meet and discuss how improvements can be made going forwards.
I have to say, they’ve got SO many improvements to make here, I’m more than a little sceptical that much will change, but I really want to use this meeting productively. It’s not about ME anymore…..I’ve moved on and feel much stronger for it, and I’m not after anything other than better treatment for others. I’ve said all I have to say in my letter below, but I’d love to hear from other working mummies from the same employer with your suggestions for improvement. Feel free to comment or message me privately on email@example.com
Here’s the letter I wrote:
I’d like to take you up on the offer you made to me when I left, to talk to you about my two experiences as a maternity leave returner.
As you know, I chose to leave last September. Not long after submitting my resignation, you came to my desk and told me you completely understood my reasons for leaving, and I probably smiled and nodded or something like that, and quietly went on my way. What I should have done was challenge you that you didn’t know my reasons for leaving, because you hadn’t asked me, nor had the person beneath you, or the person beneath them. You assumed it was for a better opportunity, which was partially true, but actually it was because my confidence was at rock bottom and my mental health was at risk if I stayed. I was quite surprised that no one had sat me down and asked why I was leaving after just 6 months back after maternity leave, but then on the other hand I wasn’t surprised at all, because I felt the business had given up on me the very moment I became a part time working mum.
I worked hard throughout my first pregnancy, working full time up to 39 weeks to meet deadlines, because I enjoyed my job and wanted to come back to it. I was engaged during my maternity leave too, coming in for all 10 KIT days and was delighted to be granted the opportunity to job share my role (a suggestion I had made because that was MY job, my other baby). I’d worked hard at it, building relationships with the team from our parent company, becoming the subject matter expert and I’d enjoyed it.
So, imagine how it felt to be told, 1 week before my return date, that, my Senior Director at the time had decided the role wouldn’t work as a job share and that a full time colleague of the same level was going into that role and that he’d be promoting her.
Imagine how that felt?
The work we were then given was largely administrative and felt like a massive demotion. It was frustrating, because no one ever gave us a chance to prove we could make the job share work.
I was told I was disengaged and de-motivated, but on reflection – here’s what I think really happened. The business had become disengaged with ME. I was treated like my brain didn’t work anymore because I had chosen to request to work part time.
Career options were over for me because of my choice to become a working mum.
I returned from my second maternity leave to a new Senior Director, who never took the time to talk to me to find out what skills and qualities I had to offer. I was told by the team that if I wanted to get to know her, working late into the evenings was the best time to get her attention. Not entirely practical when there are two small children to collect from childcare. I was made to feel like this was my problem, not hers.
Plus, I was frequently asked to change my working days to accommodate team meetings, which I did – at an additional cost of £90 per day to put my children in childcare so that I could attend. Why, when I was the only part timer in the resourcing team, these meetings couldn’t fall on one of the 3 days I did work, was beyond me. But I’d become numb to it, because by that point I felt isolated, belittled, deflated and I was indeed completely disengaged.
I find it particularly frustrating that being part of the People Team, we weren’t role modelling the highest standards for part time workers, for maternity returners and for female talent with high performance and high potential.
Considering recent media campaigns, I feel now’s the right time for you to really hear my experience.
Now armed with new skills from becoming a mother – negotiation, resilience, patience and more drive and pace to get things done than ever before, I did some external self-development that enabled me to see that I was worth much, much more. I saw that the people in Senior Management positions above me were the least ‘people orientated’ leaders ever to have worked in a ‘People team’ and so I found myself a better career development opportunity.
It’s going well – I feel valued, trusted and empowered to perform really well in my new job. There’s no micro management or several levels of approval to get through – there’s just simple communication, driving results and delivering project outcomes week in, week out. We have a motivated workforce and a happier working environment. Genuine thanks are given and received. Fun is encouraged. It’s really refreshing.
And it works for me, because no one treats me like I’m less able, committed or intelligent, just because I have two small children at home. They value my longer term potential. My life won’t always be filled with nappies, potty training and soft play visits, and then I’ll have chance to further my career.
I’m also writing this email on the back of the “Dear Employer” campaign from Pregnant then Screwed & the Guilty Mothers Club. Big corporates like you say they are keen to promote more females into senior leadership positions, that they are keen to close the gender pay gap, that they do NOT tolerate discrimination.
However, based on my experiences of subtle discrimination, blatant discrimination and many, many assumptions made on my behalf about what I would or wouldn’t be prepared to do at work now that was a mum, I feel it’s time to make my voice heard. I suspect you might see a few of these emails today, and you deserve to know how awful it felt to be treated so differently for becoming a Mum. If it helps just one other maternity returner get better treatment upon her return then I’ll consider it a job well done.
If you are genuinely committed to improving this and would like to hear more about my experiences, then please don’t hesitate to contact me – I’d be happy to discuss it.