May 17, 2023

The inclusion of pregnant women in the workplace. A question of corporate culture.

Stéphanie Le Nevé
Key Account Project Manager
Announcing a pregnancy to your employees/managers is always a very stressful moment. We ask ourselves a thousand and one questions: how will they react? What will they say? Will my pregnancy be taken well? Is it the right time? We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves for fear of the reaction of our colleagues or superiors. But this is not normal.

So why should anyone "torture" themselves with the idea of making their pregnancy official?

In 2023, I will be celebrating my 7th year at Letsignit. During these years, I was able to experience my first pregnancy. This testimonial is an opportunity for me to share with you what goes on behind the scenes of the company with a female eye. I would like to highlight:

  • the unfortunate tendency of women to put themselves in a 'persona non grata' position because they are pregnant;
  • the importance of company directors and managers lifting the veil on this subject, facilitating the announcement of this happy event and its acceptance by their peers;
  • and more generally, that a woman's pregnancy is part of the lifecycle of a company.
It is with all the goodwill in the world that I wish to take advantage of International Women's Day to speak out on this subject!

My career at Letsignit in three words: key account project manager, mother and manager.

My adventure at Letsignit started as a project manager. I say adventure because these last seven years have been very enriching on a personal and professional level.

It was a rich experience, because we had to evolve at the same time as the company.

I was able to experience some very beautiful moments, whether with my colleagues, my clients or my pregnancy, in a caring professional environment. Of course, I am not the only woman in the company who has become a mother.

I have celebrated the formalization of some employees' pregnancies, shared moments of complicity with future mothers, and accompanied some of them in their daily "worries."

As a mother and manager, I have noticed a lot, both from my own experience and from the feedback of my colleagues. Here are the observations I have made concerning the place of pregnant women in companies.

Bad pressure and misconceptions about pregnancy.

Certain behaviors or ways of thinking within companies have become normalized. As women, we make sure that we tick all the boxes to fit this assigned 'professional image.' We continually try harder, without allowing ourselves a 'gap' to satisfy our superiors and colleagues.

The results? We create bad stress for ourselves. We ask ourselves the wrong questions. This is especially true when we announce a pregnancy.

Pregnancy is synonymous with change. This means adapting the workload and anticipating the upcoming maternity leave to maintain a balance within the department.

Conditioned to perform our tasks with a well-defined process, shaking up certain habits can be unwelcome.

As I said earlier, the first questions that come to mind are: how will they react? What will they say? Will my pregnancy be taken well? Is it the right time?

In the end, isn't all this simply the result of fear of our colleagues' gaze and judgement?

Are we afraid of being considered 'persona non grata' because we are pregnant?

If I have one piece of advice to give you, don't be afraid of the way your colleagues look at you, and their reactions more widely. Being pregnant does not make you a different person.

This will not prevent you from doing your job or getting promoted.

For example, I became a manager after my pregnancy. All your efforts are judged on continuity and will not be forgotten because you are pregnant. On the contrary.

Maternity leave is part of the lifecycle of a company.

There is never a right or wrong time to announce your pregnancy.

The company is still running at full speed and we are still immersed in our projects.

What's more, digital forces companies to reinvent themselves. Change has become commonplace. If an employee goes on maternity leave, "it's not a big deal."

Any change - no matter how small - needs to be anticipated. Don't wait until the last moment to announce your pregnancy (in any case, there will come a time when you can no longer hide your belly).

Furthermore, we live in an age where society is more openminded than in the past. Today, many business leaders, directors and managers welcome the pregnancy of a female employee with open arms.

They are well-aware that a woman will have to give birth. We are putting ourselves under a lot of pressure when the news can be very welcome.

The leadership and managers should be friendly to pregnant women and set an example.

They are the ones who (indirectly) determine the behavior and reaction of the employees. Therefore, they must make it a point to set a good example and open up to their teams. Some of them are already the father or mother of a child. Even if this is part of their private sphere, it is important to show that they too have a family life and that they have experienced a pregnancy or accompanied their spouse.

In this way, they:

  1. reassure some women
  2. encourage their staff to be more caring
  3. perhaps help some men to be more supportive of their wives
  4. normalise women's pregnancy in the workplace.

I am speaking to you from experience.

As a matter of fact, I was really stressed on the day I announced my pregnancy. I was part of the first wave of thirty-somethings to have a child. I must have been the third or fourth.

When I went to see Emilie Peythieux, Customer Service Manager, to share the news, I was nervous. Once I had officially announced my pregnancy, she happily replied: "Oh my! I knew it!"

At the end of our exchange, Emilie strongly recommended that I make my pregnancy official myself to Damien Neyret, the CEO of Letsignit. She considered that it was a very personal matter and that I should make it official in person and not through an intermediary.

At that time, I was not yet one of the company's old hands. So I took my courage in both hands and managed my stress to announce it. It's one thing to announce your pregnancy to your manager. To tell your boss is quite another.

When I told Damien Neyret about it, he answered with a singular expression and a big smile: "That's great news!" You can imagine my surprise and relief at that moment. With hindsight, I think that Emilie already knew that Damien's reaction would be positive.

To be honest, I had my preconceptions. I was afraid of the reaction of my superiors and colleagues. I misdirected my mind by asking myself futile questions. Their reaction - more than positive - showed me that I had put myself under bad pressure for nothing.

Finally, the news was very well received by all departments.

This quickly became a norm within the company. Everyone at Letsignit is happy for their employees and is very caring. There is no animosity. Everyone makes it a point of honor to make Letsignit a big family.

Why? Because Damien Neyret, Emilie Peythieux, the other members of the mangement team (Capucine Roche and Anthony POYAC👋) and the managers showed their teams the right mindset to adopt.

What is the moral of this testimony?

Ladies, all your questions are the result of the fear of your colleagues' eyes and judgement. Detach yourself from this and live your pregnancy to the fullest! You will be surprised to see that the reactions can be benevolent.

The CEO, directors and managers play a key role in the inclusion of pregnant women in a company. They are the reference points of the company. If they don't lead by example, it will be difficult to have supportive employees and to change attitudes.

With the right attitude and mindset, this type of event will become a normality and part of the company's culture.

I hope, ladies and gentlemen, that I have helped you to gain some perspective on the subject through my personal reflections.

I will conclude this feedback with a final piece of advice: be kind to your employees. Whatever the situation.

About the author
Stéphanie is a Key Account Project Manager who specializes in supporting major accounts. She intervenes at the beginning of the solution deployment to facilitate the process by handling technical explanations. Stéphanie has extensive knowledge of the solution and understands the workings of large entities. Her daily goal is to provide the best support to her clients. In addition to being an outstanding project manager, she is also a dynamic and energetic woman who never misses an opportunity to share her good mood and lovely flowery outfits!
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