Getting Hired While Pregnant
We’ve written before about hiring and retaining the best teams, but as two women with two young children, we haven’t tackled the issue of getting a job while navigating the complexities of pregnancy. If you choose to have children, there’s some likelihood you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re a pregnant lawyer and you want to switch jobs. For many women, the feat seems either impossible or highly improbable. We want to address issues ranging from disclosing your pregnancy, starting a job pregnant, handling maternity leave and others over the course of a few posts.
I didn’t set out to start new jobs pregnant. As it often happens, however, life had other plans, and I’ve started my last two jobs pregnant (and I’m actually writing this post on my maternity leave). During my first pregnancy, I was six month pregnant and running a law firm I co-founded, when an amazing in-house opportunity fell into my lap. I didn’t have any examples to follow, and wasn’t sure about the best way to approach an interview pregnant. After reaching out to my community of trusted advisors, ranging from CEOs, CFOs, HR professionals, and of course, fellow legal colleagues working at both small and large categories best way to approach the process and tackle questions about whether to disclose the pregnancy, and how to best do so.
- To disclose or not to disclose. Some adamantly believe you should never disclose you’re pregnant until you start your employment because it’s, simply, nobody’s business. You may actually put your potential employer in a tough position if you disclose before getting the offer because pregnancy is considered a disability. On the other hand, a number of other C-level executives from smaller companies (in the startup to 300 employer range), where I would either be the first or second attorney, said that if they were interviewing someone and they didn’t disclose being pregnant, it would feel as if the individual was starting the job off on a dishonest note. As a California-based employee, I’m fortunate in that an employer can’t fire me because I disclose I’m pregnant. Though I never had the legal obligation to disclose my pregnancy and I strongly believe it’s actually nobody’s business, I chose to disclose I was pregnant both times before starting as an official employee for very different reasons.
- Reasons for disclosing. It’s easier not to disclose when you’re interviewing for a job at a large company with a robust legal department that can easily cover your maternity leave. However, during my first pregnancy, I was interviewing for a job where I would be the first and only US-based lawyer managing all of our legal needs in the US, and that made matters more complicated. I was also six months pregnant when interviewing and would be seven months pregnant when starting the job. Though I had initially planned to disclose the pregnancy after getting the offer, a large portion of my interview was a conversation about the importance of communication and having an open-door policy with my future boss. It felt so awkward to then not disclose that I’m pregnant, that I made an on the spot decision to do so at the end of the interview. When interviewing for my current job, I was four months pregnant, so I felt I would have more time to work with my team before going out on leave. I also knew I would have a team of people and felt such a strong fit during the interview process, that I just knew it wouldn’t be a huge deal. I ended up disclosing that I was pregnant after we had negotiated the offer just because I wasn’t comfortable having that be one of the first conversations I have when I start a new job.
- You’re worried about showing. This is an unavoidable reality. However, when someone hasn’t seen you before, you’re not showing nearly as visibly as you think. I interviewed for my first job six months pregnant, and though I was quite visibly pregnant to those that knew me well, I wore a loose shirt and my future boss had no idea and was completely stunned when he found out. Obviously, this all depends on how you’re built and what your physical pregnancy looks like. I just think that people are paying less attention to your size than you are.
Ultimately, the decision of when and how to disclose is a highly personal one. There isn’t one “right” answer on how to handle this topic. Yet, this seems to be a huge source of stress, and I want to encourage pregnant women to apply for jobs and, potentially, disclose they’re pregnant if that’s what feels right. You may surprised that it’s less of an issue than you anticipated. We’ll tackle the issues of negotiating an offer, feeling the need to “prove” yourself at a new job on a shorter timeline, and navigating maternity leave in subsequent posts. Do you have other suggestions or experience? Please tweet us and share your thoughts!
This article was originally published by Above the Law.