“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Communicating highly personal information about your body to a human being you usually have a professional relationship with is strange enough. In a time of economic precarity and global uncertainty it only becomes more uncomfortable.
Here at Grace Papers, we are hearing women are increasingly anxious about disclosing the news of their pregnancy. There are fears around job security and letting their overworked peers and leaders down. There’s also an increased anxiety around having ‘the conversation’ because their pregnancy has remained largely invisible in remote working conditions. We are also hearing men are feeling more reluctant to take parental leave; the enormous uncertainty of this moment has everyone holding onto security wherever they can.
Research by the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that one in two women experience some form of pregnancy related discrimination and there are often negative attitudes toward men taking parental leave. All of which can impact a parent-to-be’s confidence, mental health and financial security.
So, how do you tell your boss you’re pregnant and keep your career on track? Here are our top five tips to help you navigate the conversation, even in the strangest of times.
1. Know your rights
We advocate for you to have an understanding of your rights and responsibilities, not so you can take action if things go wrong (although it is an option), but so you can use your understanding of your rights to script an informed communication to your boss and various stakeholders.
For example, under the Sex Discrimination Act, it is unlawful to treat differently or discriminate against an employee on the basis of their sex, pregnancy, potential pregnancy, family responsibilities or because they are breastfeeding. The Fair Work Act also makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, sex, family or carer’s responsibilities, or to take adverse action against an employee because they have the right to take parental leave, have exercised the right to take parental leave, or propose not to exercise the right to take parental leave.
You should also check out your workplace’s parental leave policy to understand:
How long before parental leave you need to advise your workplace (usually 10 weeks);
What your paid leave entitlements are;
Who you need to notify.
2. Integrate your professional vision
It’s one of our favourite tools – your professional vision is like your elevator pitch for your career. When you use it at the same time you are telling your boss you’re pregnant, it challenges their unconscious (and sometimes conscious) biases, because it reminds them of your ambition, your potential, and your talent. You can also mitigate your exposure to ambition bias by sharing that you have the support of the Grace Papers digital coaching and empowerment program.
Don’t have a professional vision? If your employer is a partner of ours, simply jump into Step 1 of our online program, and in under 25 mins you’ll have an Instagram-worthy vision board and vision statement to go with it. Click here to login.
3. Think about your timing
While it is commonplace to communicate this news around the end of your first trimester, and the risk of miscarriage significantly reduces, there are many reasons for sharing this news sooner or later.
If, for example, you’re experiencing morning sickness or other pregnancy related complications, you may need to share your news with your boss earlier. Similarly, if you’re looking at a promotion or moving into a new role, you’re on an important deal, or its performance review time, you may want to hold off from telling your manager, to ensure that biases don’t creep into the decision making process. Of course, sometimes it can work in your favour.
How does Covid-19 impact this? If anything, positively – with the opportunity to nap, embrace your morning sickness in the privacy of your home rather than the office toilets, and live in trackies and ugg boots, timing is on your terms. So we’d advocate for choosing a time that you feel energised, still ensuring your manager is one of the first you share the news with.
4. Be respectful and professional
While it’s your private information, it can be really advantageous to share your news with your boss before they find out about it from your team. If it’s done well, your boss can also be a sponsor – someone who has your back and uses their chips to support you as you start to share this news with other team members and stakeholders in your workplace. Think about how you would like to experience this conversation as a people leader, and set the tone for the conversation accordingly.
5. Anticipate biases
Think about your boss’ life. What does it look like and what are their potential biases towards the information you are about to share? This information doesn’t necessarily mean that your leader isn’t inclusive or empathetic towards expectant parents, but unconscious biases are a powerful and real thing. And, well, unconscious.
Ask yourself the following so you can start to think about your manager’s potential blind spots:
My manager is a parent. Y/N
My manager has taken parental leave. Y/N
My manager has a partner who also has a career. Y/N
My manager encourages both men and women to work flexibly. Y/N
My manager supports other working parents in our team. Y/N
Males and females are equally represented in my team. Y/N
My manager is an advocate for working parents. Y/N
My manager works or has worked flexibly. Y/N
Use these insights to inform your communication.
For support in creating the perfect pregnancy pitch for your stakeholder, log in to the Grace Papers digital coaching platform, and learn how to Communicate with Confidence. To find out more about partnering with Grace Papers, contact us here.