The “Motherhood Penalty” Is Only As Real As You Make It
Updated: Aug 10, 2019
The rubber met the road when I got pregnant. As Vice President of Global Inclusion for Mosaic Group and Ask Applications, two IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IAC) companies, part of a family that includes many of the most successful media and internet brands in the world (including Match.com, HomeAdvisor, Vimeo and more) – I’m no stranger to advocating for people in the workplace.
But yet, it took me months and a ton of second-guessing when it came time for me to announce my pregnancy.
I knew I had been doing great work and was adding tremendous value to the company. I sensed that I was about to get a promotion and a pay raise. Yet, I was nervous that by letting the company know about my pregnancy, my career would be jeopardized.
It’s not surprising because there are many horror stories about the “motherhood penalty” or “mommy track” – how women are being passed on raises and promotions when they become pregnant.
Even though it’s my job to make sure that employees from different backgrounds and all walks of life are treated equally and with respect, I realized that I also suffered from the deep-seated fear that’s holding so many women back.
It took me a few months before I finally spoke with a couple of trusted colleagues. I found that employees unanimously expressed how much they value the support they get as new parents from the organization. Not only are they not being penalized while taking the time they need but they also feel fully supported as they embark on this exciting new chapter in their lives.
Two months before my due date, I had to share the news with my managers; Head of Legal, Cindi Moreland and the CEO of the company, Tim Allen. Right away, they were very supportive and excited for me. A couple of weeks later, I was promoted to the VP position and received the pay raise I thought I deserved even though they knew that I’d be taking 4-6 months off (our company has excellent parental benefits!) QUESTION: IS 4-6 MONTHS THE NORM? DO ALL EMPLOYEES GET THAT?
In retrospect, I wondered why it took me so long to muster up the strength to announce my pregnancy at work. “Where did the fear come from?” I realized it was the fear of the unknown – the “what if?” – and some self-doubt. Even though I had all the facts and knew I was a good employee that the company would not want to lose, I was still hesitant when the situation became personal.
I’m not alone. This fear affects many women in the workplace. It’s important to know that if you’re doing great work, adding value, and contributing to the growth of your organization, it won’t want to lose you or take away your promotion – no matter your role.
Not to mention, since it’s more costly to hire a new employee than to retain one (e.g., the average cost of replacing a mid-level manager is about 20% of the annual salary,) it simply makes business sense not to penalize employees just because they’re expecting a child (and, of course, it’s illegal- there’s that).
I’m grateful that my organization is so supportive of employees who add value by acknowledging their contribution and compensating them properly under all circumstances.
However, many women are still hamstrung by the fear of the “motherhood penalty.”
It’s time that we overcome the misconception and speak up – knowing that if you’re doing great work and contributing to the company, you’re in the driver’s seat.