What Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

I am so excited to share a special guest post from my husband and biggest supporter.  Take a few minutes to hear his perspective on maternity leave.

For starters, I’m really proud of my wife for doing the Maternity Leave Coach blog and helping get useful topics/hints/suggestions out there that working women can use when they are on the verge of experiencing the most amazing event they will ever experience in their life. My wife asked me to chime in on a guest post, so we chatted about what I’ve experienced in my working life.

For starters, I’ve had a knack in my working life for working around and with companies that could also be labeled as “Neanderthal Inc.”  By that I mean that they are typically male dominated and may have a culture that is gruff and quite frankly doesn’t understand women and how to work with them or develop them so they are vital parts of the organization. Fortunately, my wife has mostly worked for large companies that have had fairly progressive policies when it comes to women and typically would go above any federal minimums when it came to maternity leave and benefits like that. So, it’s safe to say we’ve had different experiences over our almost 20+ years working. We were talking about her blog recently (did I mention I’m proud of her?) and why some women might not want to tell their managers they are pregnant or that they might be nervous about their future when there are laws to protect them. Here are some observations I’ve made over the years.

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The Evils of Extended Maternity Leave

I just read an article by Kay Hymowitz on Time.com about how extended maternity leave may put women at a disadvantage in the workplace.  I’m not mad at Ms. Hymowitz because she’s just reporting the facts but I am left with a little bit of a “meh, I could have told you that” reaction.

Do I wish that an employee – male or female – could take a year off of work without having the negative side effects mentioned in the article?  We’ll yes, it’d be great if I was gone for the next twelve months and my skills didn’t get rusty, my social networks stayed fresh, I’d be able to come back with the same or higher pay and that my longer term career potential wasn’t affected.  But I believe it’s a little unrealistic to think that one or more of those wouldn’t be affected by my choice to exit the workplace for a while.

Let’s flip the script a bit.  Let’s say Joe in the cubicle next to you made a decision to serve in the military.  His time away from work to serve his country is protected by law.  Would you expect him to be sent on required training for a year and then think he’d come right back to work without missing a beat?  Might he have forgotten a bit about the company’s complex accounting system, could the advocates he had previously in the organization moved on without him, could that affect his rate of pay increases for the next few years while he caught up?  It’s highly likely one or more of these things would happen.  Even though that stinks, we’d support him through this transition back to the workplace and respect his service to our country.

I believe that sustaining the human race through pro-creation is also a noble cause.  And here’s the upside that I think we forget.  Why did I take the time off in the first place?  TO HAVE A BABY!  That trumps a few bucks more an hour, don’t you think?

I’m afraid that people (ok, specifically business leaders and policymakers) in the U.S. read about extended leaves in other parts of the world and say “See, our twelve week maternity leave policies are better than other countries because we get a woman back to work sooner, therefore improving her chances of getting back on the career track more quickly.”  Uh, ok.  Lame.

So, all that to say, I will still advocate for improvements in maternity leave offerings around the world and I hope you join with me in that work.  Check out my other blog posts that show just how far behind we are in the U.S. in regard to our offer for working mothers-to-be.  Then write a letter or change a diaper.

Is Women’s Career Advice Just a Bunch of Bunk?

Meghan Casserly writes a great blog called Girl Friday at Forbes.com.  A recent post highlights the struggles that women have in advancing their careers, especially in light of the specialized advice they receive.  Learnings from the Catalyst study The Myth of the Ideal Worker show that although women engage in activities like mentoring, networking and actually asking for what they want, they still do not receive promotional opportunities on par with their male peers.

It’s actually quite depressing to hear.  It’s like saying I went on a diet, I did more exercise than the other guy, I even took some crazy weight loss pills that made me grow a beard and I’m  STILL 10 pounds overweight and he lost 20 without doing a thing!  Here’s my spin…It’s depressing if you want exactly what the other guy has.

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