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BUILD A CAREER

7 Tips : How To Balance Maternity With Your Career

In this special masterclass offered by 50inTech, Gimena Diaz shares various tips and tricks to help you navigate the pressure of combining a career with a family—from learning how to reintegrate in the workplace after being away on parental leave, to organizing a work-life schedule that works for you.

 Tara Johnson
Tara Johnson

Social media and Event Manager at 50inTech

What you will learn:

  • How to deal with maternity during your career
  • How to announce your maternity leave date
  • The challenge of coming back after maternity leave
  • How to stop being a perfectionist and aim for “good enough”
  • How to set your own boundaries 
  • How to avoid losing your self-confidence while on leave

About the speaker:

Gimena Diaz is V.P. of Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Onfido, a company that helps businesses verify people's identities using facial recognition technology. For eight years Gimena was also the general manager at PayPal for Europe and Asia, where she managed over 160 people. She's also strongly involved in the development of gender equality as a board member of UN Women in France.

Our favourite quotes: 

  • “When you have a child, everything is going to change. We need to be honest about this. Priorities change.”
  • “Even if we're not good planners during our career, the reality of having children and working at the same time is that we need to plan.”
  • “Instead of aiming for perfection, aim for good enough. This takes a lot of the pressure of being a perfect mom, a perfect woman at work, a perfect wife, a perfect everything.”

This masterclass was part of the bootcamp “ What I really really want” offered by 50inTech. The original title was “Maternity & Career”.

Here is a written summary: 


A life-changing event

When I got pregnant for the first time, I was pretty busy, to say the least. At the time, I was general manager at PayPal, responsible for over one hundred sixty people. So it wasn’t easy. But I took the proper time to have my first child. I knew I wanted to have a career and work, but also have a family life.

However, before deciding to go into maternity, I had a huge amount of questions. Since then, I've been trying to help the women that I recruit or mentor to go through this huge change in their lives that has an impact on everything. My goal here today is to answer some of those questions and doubts for you. 

The three topics we’re going to discuss today are:

  1. Dealing with maternity at work
  2. The challenge of coming back. 
  3. What if we included fathers?
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Dealing with maternity at work

  1. Announcing when you’ll go on leave: the first thing people say when you announce you’re pregnant at work (besides “congratulations”) is: “when is your last day?” It seems straightforward, but in my case, this wasn’t easy to cope with. It was like, wait a minute: I'm still here for six or seven or eight months. Why are you already asking me about my last day? But people have this need to know when you're going to leave. It took me some time to realize I shouldn’t take that personally. After all, it was just a matter of planning. 
  1. Plan, plan, plan: even if we're not good planners during our career, even if we're allergic to our own organization and we're creatives and we have different types of jobs, the reality of having children and working at the same time is that we need to plan.

    We need to plan because it’s not only your agenda—it's the children’s agenda, the nanny’s agenda, your partner’s agenda. It’s everyone's agenda. So at the end of the day, we need to plan. Maternity leave is three months, four months, or up to nine months depending on the country where you’re based. So that needs to be planned and organized, also so you can decide how much time you want to spend with your child.

  2. Let go: this may seem contradictory, but once you’ve planned everything, one of the most challenging things is then to let go. You can plan everything, but there are always going to be things you didn’t account for. The closer you're getting to the date of maternity leave, the closer you're getting to a point where you need to let go
  3. Stay in touch: one of the biggest fears that I hear is that things are going to change while you’re away. When you leave for six months, the change can be huge. Keeping up with the fast pace of the company is difficult enough when you’re working, but when you’re on maternity leave it’s nearly impossible. That’s why it’s important that you feel comfortable to stay in touch if and when you want to.


The challenge of coming back


  1. Ask yourself if, and why, you want to come back: many women choose to not go back to work, or they join a different company, or they apply for a new role. Some women will take the opportunity to create their own company or switch to something more creative. And there is also the choice of adding additional time off. 
    In my case, I realized it would be too troublesome to work and live in between the US and France, so I decided to become self-employed essentially to keep that flexibility, even if this adds new pressure of course. There is no right or wrong decision. But if you do decide to come back, you need to think long and hard about why. Maybe you want to start working again to restore your personal equilibrium, or maybe you’re missing the challenge or the thrill. Whatever your reasons, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to figure out what you really want to get out of your job and your career.
  1. Accept change: When you have a child, everything is going to change. We need to be honest about this. Priorities change. Luckily companies are starting to acknowledge that new parents go through a kind of priority shift, especially when children are very small. Acknowledging and accepting that your priorities are going to change should not be a problem. And as a woman, even your body is changing and your sleep will be altered, so adapting your work-life balance is essential.

  2. Give yourself time: the arrival of a child is something fantastic and life-altering. Depending on the amount of children you want, you’ll go through it multiple times, but each time is going to be unique. So taking the time to experience it 100 percent is important. Because those first days, weeks and months are not going to come back, so enjoy it while it lasts.
  1. Don’t lose your self-confidence: it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you don’t look as good, or that you’ve been out of the loop for so long and the company has changed so much that you start feeling you won't be able to do your job like you used to. This is one of the biggest mistakes we all make. There is no reason why our skills, our intelligence, our way of doing business has changed just because we’ve had children. It does mean you're probably a little more tired.

  2. Dealing with guilt: one of the most common things that new parents are dealing with almost every day is feeling guilty for not being at home enough to take care of the children, or not being focused enough at work. One of the ways I dealt with this when I was at PayPal, was to put in place what we call “maternity come back coaching”. I saw that many women didn't feel comfortable raising these issues with their own management, so I brought in an external coach that could help them deal with this pressure in a safe and confidential environment. And we quickly realized that we also needed a coach for soon-to-be parents preparing to go on leave, so we implemented that, first in France, and then all over Europe.

  3. Set your own boundaries: coming back to work means that there is an organization at home. Finding the right childcare, for example, is not always easy. So if you need more flexibility in your work schedule, or if you can no longer make your 6 p.m. Friday after work drinks, speak up. Your colleagues and your managers won’t know unless you state clearly what it is that you need.

  4. Don’t be too perfectionist: no matter how well you organize your career and your child’s needs, it will never be perfect. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to make dinner for the kids every night. So instead of aiming for perfection, aim for good enough. This takes a lot of the pressure of being a perfect mom, a perfect woman at work, a perfect wife, a perfect everything, which, let's be honest, is impossible.


What if we included fathers?  

  1. Both parents need support: Obviously, fathers’ lives also completely change when they have children. I remember walking through the open space at work and seeing one of the guys on my team kind of falling asleep in front of his computer. And then it hit me: he had become a father two weeks before. So I decided to put in place paternity coaching, to give men an opportunity to reflect about how their life has changed and how to deal with the added pressure. We really need management to acknowledge that there is a change and allow men to adapt their career to this new priority in their life.

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Conclusion


Summing up, having children is a life-altering event, and we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking it won’t affect our careers. Luckily, there are lots of ways to deal with this change—from properly planning parental leave, to staying in touch with the firm and setting new boundaries if and when we return to the workplace. Luckily, companies and managers are increasingly sensitized to the policies and coaching support needed to guide employees through this phase of their lives. 

This content was created based on a talk during our Bootcamp What I Really Really Want in 2020. 

How can you watch the full replay?

Join 50inTech and access to free masterclasses hosted by the most influential women of the industry, you will find top tips to boost your career from women in Tech who are breaking the glass ceiling. 

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Whichever way you look at it, we are still a long way removed from parity. There is an 18% pay gap in French tech companies (versus 10% in London, and 5% in the San Francisco Bay Area). And while companies are all too keen on preaching the diversity and inclusion gospel, digital banking giant Revolut can still get away with paying its female C-levels 30% less than their male counterparts.

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