Half of female executives find it difficult to return from maternity leave

Motherhood is an upheaval for parents. But how do women executives specifically experience this period in their company? There are very few studies. The executive employment association looked into the subject.


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Three quarters of executive mothers believe that maternity leave has slowed down their career for several years.  Few studies address this question.  (Illustration) (DIGITAL VISION / ABEL MITJA VARELA / GETTY IMAGES)

Too many difficulties and not enough support. This is the sentiment mainly expressed by the 840 female executives interviewed as part of an APEC study. They have given birth to at least one child over the last 10 years, while having to remain available and ready to take on challenges in the company.

First critical step, the announcement of the pregnancy

Many expectant mothers don’t know when to announce it, and how; they feel like they are giving bad news, or even betraying their employer. And they know that the reaction they receive can predict the rest of their professional career. “Lmaternity remains sometimes reduced to a penalizing absence by the employer, analyzes the Apec, and not a logical step in the journey of women”.

Second critical stage, returning from maternity leave

It is considered difficult by almost half of female executives. Difficult to cope with the workload, due to fatigue, for 70% of respondents. It’s difficult to be as efficient and as committed as before. Difficult to find their place in their old position for 44%.

Either because the replacement has taken over a mission, the clients, or because there is an overload of work when no one has taken over. 71% suffer from an increase in their mental workload, more than a quarter say that listening and support from the manager has deteriorated. Finally, when we ask female executives if companies really organize things to encourage their return, 71% of them answer no.

Legal obligations sometimes forgotten

The Labor Code requires a medical examination, an interview with the employer, but also the possibility of breastfeeding during working hours. Information rarely communicated by HR services, often due to ignorance, sometimes by withholding information.

To improve these situations, Gilles Gateau, the head of Apec, suggests that companies create protocols at the different stages of maternity. Train managers when announcing the pregnancy, to avoid guilty thoughts, but also involve the woman in the choice and training of the replacement.

Promote kindness and mutual assistance upon return and discuss working conditions. “Today, it’s too much of a do-it-yourself thing” he said, even in large companies”. While three quarters of executive mothers believe that maternity leave has slowed down their career for several years.

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