Bumps and the Boardroom: Why shared parental leave is paving the way for more women on boards

The announcement in December of revised parental leave legislation paves the way for new thinking around the pregnancy journey and transition to motherhood for female executives.

LB-homepage-slider-867x383-v4My experience as an advisor to business and supporting mothers-to-be exit and elegantly return to the workplace whilst maintaining an upward career trajectory and become the mother they want to be, points to a shorter six-month, full-time break from work as being the optimum, but with maternity leave commencing slightly earlier in pregnancy than is often currently the norm.

When a pregnant woman is working in a male dominated environment that thrives on operating in a linear and rigid structure it can be difficult – unless the culture actively supports it – to embrace her feminine pregnant energy and “softer” flowing values which are conducive to her transition to becoming a mother and coping more effectively with her newborn.

By subtly shifting away from her masculine energy and traits that are more focused on performance and competition, she can experience a smoother journey to motherhood and then feels more ready for an earlier return to the workplace.

We are moving towards enlightened leaders embracing both masculine and feminine values. The choice of who goes back to work and who stays home has long been subject to both cultural bias and economic rationale, which is now more open to review.

There is absolutely no magic ingredient women have when it comes to being parents

Despite studies confirming that men are equally hard-wired to care for their children, recent research carried out by employment website Glassdoor, shows not all men agree. Fewer than one in four (23 percent) men surveyed agreed that new parents should share parental leave and just over one in ten (12 percent) would currently take the maximum paternity leave while their partner took minimum maternity leave and returned to work

According to Adrienne Burgess from The Fatherhood Institute, the UK fatherhood think-and-do-tank “There is absolutely no magic ingredient women have when it comes to being parents”.

My experience is that new mothers who are highly successful are as out of their depth initially as their partners. But as they tend to spend more time with their newborn – knowing off the bat they are taking on the lion’s share for the next few months – they become more adept, more quickly. Behind closed doors it is an extremely challenging process, that if not well managed or supported can not only impact on a woman’s re-integration back to the workplace but on overall career success long term. The desire to get back up to speed and operate at her peak is felt by both new mothers and employers.

A CityMothers survey highlighted that their members – mothers and fathers – were keener for “a more accepting and less macho culture”, confirming the sensitivities that develop in both new parents. It does appear though that currently the fear of loss of status and earning power to many men pre-baby, is more overwhelming than the perceived pleasure of embracing their new father self and being a more equal parent.

As more parents embrace the new opportunities and more men openly support the combination of motherhood and an upward career trajectory, more women will feel supported to step into their full potential resulting in a more balanced C-suite.

Letting go of traditional stereotypes may not happen overnight but if we are all open to change the potential is there.

Lisa Barnwell is passionate about pregnancy, motherhood and embracing new models of thinking. With over twelve years closely supporting London’s pregnancy set, she has become the go-to for both the high level, mindful new mother-to-be and the corporation or business she is a part of.

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About the author

Lisa Barnwell is passionate about encouraging women and business to embrace their feminine values and truly understand the gifts the pregnancy journey and transition to motherhood can offer our corporate cultures.

As founder of London’s first destination clinic for pre and postnatal therapies, over twelve years supporting London’s high level, ambitious and mindful new mothers-to-be and the recent launch of Bumps and the Boardroom, she is committed to helping business leaders strengthen the pipeline of female talent and ensure mothers maximize their potential.

She is writing her first book “Back to my Heels – the story of Love, Loss and Leaning In. “

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