Two thirds of executive women believe that pregnancy has slowed down their career development

“INbad news”, “betrayal”, “failure”… For many managers, announcing a pregnancy to an employer has the impression of the Stations of the Cross. And the situation does not improve afterwards, on the contrary.

Two-thirds (69%) of executives, men and women combined, believe that maternity leave slows down women's career progression for several years, according to a survey by the Association for the Employment of Executives (Apec) published this THURSDAY. Almost half (47%) think that their return was “difficult”.

READ ALSO Businesses: Inequalities persist for female CEOsThe survey, conducted among 12,400 private sector executives, highlights the plight of these women in positions of responsibility. “While their child becomes their priority (…), at the same time they need to assume their executive status by always being available and ready to take on numerous professional challenges”, describe the authors of the study.

Problems arise as soon as the pregnancy is announced, which is a phase considered to be stressful for most respondents. “It took me a while to announce that I was pregnant, I felt like I was doing them a disservice,” says the 31-year-old employment consultant.

“Punishing absenteeism”

During maternity leave, their absence is sometimes badly expected, which is why young mothers remain connected to their company during this period, contrary to the legal obligation. “I have never disconnected during a leave. It was simply not possible, especially when I thought about what was waiting for me on the way back,” describes the 40-year-old manager, employed in the transport sector. “Maternity leave represents a difficulty in their career even though it is only a normal and very predictable phase,” notes Gaël Bouron, Deputy Head of Apec Studies.

Finally, returning to the office is a step that is often perceived poorly. On the spot, life went on during the months of absence. If the young mother is replaced, there is a risk that she will not return to her initial position upon return. Conversely, if her job is left vacant, she may find herself overwhelmed with work. “The result is sometimes for the executive mother to feel like she has become an outsider in her company,” the study concludes.

READ ALSO Personal brand: how to better promote your work? Many executive mothers (71%) reported that they had difficulty coping with the workload due to fatigue. “They think that companies have to make a lot of progress to adapt to the return of this leave,” adds Gaël Bouron. 44% of female executives have had difficulty finding their place after maternity leave, and 56% have difficulty being considered “committed” to their work.

Career on hiatus

More generally, 74% of female executives believe that pregnancy slows down their advancement in the hierarchy for several years. Some even feel like their careers have been “put on hold” after this event.

“I would like to develop my career, my salary, my expertise within the group, but after pregnancy, my professional project is in jeopardy because I no longer have the same mobility”, assesses the manager of banking affairs, mother of two children. “They have the feeling that the way they are viewed has changed after this event,” explains the head of studies at Apec.

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