Can I get promoted when I’m pregnant?

Penelope – I am 5 months pregnant with twins and have been showing for awhile now.  I’ve been asked several times by coworkers and have lied, but I’m going to have to stop lying sooner than later because it is so obvious at this point.

My question for you is how I should tell the President of the Company who I report to directly.  While he talks about diversity in the workplace as a positive thing, he has proven to always be more comfortable with promoting people who look the part (meaning older men who have put their time in) and has made comments about other women and how they care more about their kids sports tournaments than they do their job (which may or may not be true, but has definitely given him a bias).

Currently, there is only one female SVP and no female EVPs at the company.  The President has always been very fair to me and I have moved up the ranks in a very short period of time.  I am currently a VP and I have had conversations with him this year regarding a promotion to an SVP this fall which at my company would be significant since there are only 5 SVPs total and 2 EVPs.

I want to ensure I stay on this SVP track and would like to address that during this meeting but am not sure what message that gives.  Does bringing the promotion up show my insecurity and lack of faith in the system?  Should I just continue to act the part and assume the promotion will come as promised?  Part of me feels like that is naïve but then I think what would a man do and I doubt he would ever question the promotion was in jeopardy.

10 replies
    • Anonymouse
      Anonymouse says:

      Yes – they will be my first.

      My company offers 6 weeks paid maternity leave and I plan to use vacation time for an additional 4 weeks so 10 weeks total. My husband is a pilot now but will resign when the twins come and be a stay at home dad so I think the 10 weeks is realistic.

  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    People won’t believe that your husband is going to resign. People will assume that the babies will come and you won’t want to leave them with your husband. Whether or not that ends up being true, that’s what people will think.

    For you to get a promotion right before twins arrive, your boss would have to believe unequivocally that you can work full-speed after the babies arrive. One of the things that makes this possible is money. For example you will still need to do nighttime feedings at 11 weeks. Your husband won’t be able to do nighttime feedings for two kids and then take care of them all day, and you won’t be able to work at full speed if you are getting up for nighttime feedings.

    For most families, this would be a very very tough time. The families that do not have a tough time have a spouse that absolutely doesn’t want to be home with the kids, and a lot of money to help the spouse that is home with the kids.

    If you are one of those special families then you should lay out to your boss how that will happen.

    Another thing: Most people who work at full speed after a baby are people who take very little leave when the baby comes. Many men take on a day or two. Marissa Mayer took less than a week. For you to take ten weeks is not particularly convincing that you will be full speed after the kids come. If you want to be with the kids at week 10, why don’t you want to be with them at week 11?

    I’m just saying, these are the things that will go through your boss’s mind, and they are not unreasonable.

    So you can ask for a promotion, but you would need to show how you’ve thought all of this out. Because it’s illegal for him to ask you questions about this stuff, but it’s not illegal for him to say “It’s not the right time. Ask me in six months.” Or something like that.


  2. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    But you havent answered her question – should she tell her boss , the President.
    Chances are he already knows about it. There are no female EVPs which means the men at VP and SVP level have been keeping the old boys club running for a while now. And men gossip. Alot.

    No, don’t volunteer the info until it’s time to apply for the maternity leave. It’s unlikely he’s going to ask you himself, ’cause that would lead to a potential lawsuit.

    A neat trick that I’ve seen work, is talking about future projects, especially those at year-end or maybe just right after the maternity leave time.

  3. Ru
    Ru says:

    Possible. I’ve seen it happen.

    My old work place was a highly competitive place. Turnovers were high. I’ve seen several female associates get pregnant (timed pregnancy) and leave just before busy season. They come back after one year of mat leave. Get promoted to associate partners (sr mgmt level) or jr managers upon their return. Granted during the one year mat leave, they had to check their emails and keep up to date on the happenings at the office but no need to come into the office. They’ve told me it was manageable.

  4. Leah
    Leah says:

    I’m a stay-at-home mum to 2.5yo twin girls.

    It’s hard to comprehend how much work twins are until they arrive (also twin pregnancies are brutal on your body you may end up needing to start maternity leave early), and every baby has a different temperament so you don’t really know what you will be dealt. I ended up with one fairly mellow baby (who was designated my husband’s night time baby as she went to sleep easiest) and one who cried all the time, and needed to be held all the time (my night time companion!).

    I feel like I lost 2 years of my life. I love them to bits BUT had my husband been ramping up his career when they were born we would have needed to spend a serious amount of money on outside support to hold the family together. I’m thinking nannies, baby sitters, house keeper, cleaner, laundry service, etc. There would also have to have been decent holidays for us as a couple and as a family.

    If he had needed to travel, work late, work at home and be well rested at the office then we would have either needed a family member living with us or a nanny or two. Because you can’t be well rested and feed a baby through out the night. Babies are so unpredictable you never know if you are going to have an easy night or not. You can’t bank on them going to sleep so you can catch-up on emails or reports etc.

    As it was, he scaled back his outside commitments, and went into neutral at work. We each had a baby to feed through out the night, and when he came home from work he could hear the babies crying from the elevator and as he walked along to our corridor. When he got home he got one or two crying babies handed to him whilst I would pass out with exhaustion.

    Penelope is spot on, you either throw a ton of money at the at-home-parent or you pitch-in as much as possible and have to consider scaling back at work. Twins are tricky but awesome!

  5. Marie
    Marie says:

    This may be somewhat dependent on your company and how valuable you really are to your team. My boss was promoted after a really stellar year for our group, then had a baby and took 2-3 months mat leave. Since coming back, she has since been promoted again (to VP). We work at a large international consulting firm and the hours are not flexible, so her coming back to work really meant creating separation from the baby. What I think ended up allowing her to pull this off was that her parents came to live with her and her husband right after the baby was born and take on full-time childcare responsibilities for months 3-6. So she relinquished ownership of the baby completely to her mom for a few months, and now the baby lives at nursery school for 10 hours a day. I don’t think this would be everyone’s choice, but from a career standpoint, this seemed to be minimally impactful.

  6. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    Getting promoted is definitely possible while you’re pregnant/a new mother. I negotiated a pretty serious promotion during my maternity leave.

    When telling your boss that you’re pregnant, the magic phrase is: “I have some news – I’m pregnant. I definitely want to come back full time, and I’m really interested in taking on more responsibility as we’ve previously discussed. Is this a good time to talk logistics?”

    Then outline your plan for covering your responsibilities at work, assuming new responsibilities with the promotion, or schedule a 15-20 minute time to talk about it later in the week. You could suggest taking on those new responsibilities NOW so that you have time to get up to full speed in order to ensure a smooth transition.

    During my maternity leave, I worked from home for 3-4 months (radio silence for about 2 weeks while I dealt with jaundice), then came back to the office M-F from 8-12 for 3-4 months, then full time with my husband staying at home with about 12-15 hours a week of nanny care. Working from home allows you to give the impression of working many more hours than you are (just send emails several times during the day/night – then your turnaround time is still fast! A lot of my clients work from field offices, so they basically felt as though I was back working, since they don’t rely heavily on face-time with me.)

    Also, you don’t have to tell your boss that you’re having twins – that can be a surprise in the birth announcement.

    Good luck and congratulations! I really think you can do this.

    Penelope, if you’re wondering, I’m an INTJ.

  7. Di
    Di says:

    I think things feel easier if you start with the assumption that your family is nobody else’s problem. Imagine you were a boss and your employee came and told you they were going to Aruba for two months, what would they have to say/do to make you understand that they were still the best choice.

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