Pregnancy and maternity leave in the fast-paced IT world

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Maternity leave often involves the hard choice of taking considerable time away from work. This is especially challenging for women in dynamic industries - such as IT -  where technology rapidly changes and you have to constantly learn new skills and be up to date.

I understand that challenge myself - I have taken two maternity leaves during my career as an iOS developer. 

In this blog, I’ll highlight the common challenges faced by women working in IT and the good practices of my employer that addressed all my concerns. My hope is to provide support for women undergoing similar experiences, and promote the benefits of a work environment that is both understanding and supportive of women during this time.

Telling the employer about pregnancy

One of the first concerns you may have is telling your employer that you’re pregnant. 

Pregnancy often comes with physical and emotional symptoms like nausea, sleepiness, fatigue, mood swings, and even complications, which can all have an impact on productivity and teamwork. As pregnancy is a personal matter, and there are plenty of uncertainties many women are concerned about how it may impact their careers.

Best practices & my take 

It is important to communicate openly with your employer about your pregnancy and the symptoms you’re experiencing.

I chose to inform my employer early on about my pregnancy, despite the potential complications that can arise during the first trimester. 

My employer showed understanding by assigning me to a less demanding project and granting me time off when needed. Such support and flexibility can significantly reduce stress and anxiety for pregnant women.

Determining the length of absence from work

An important consideration for any expectant mother is how much time you’ll need to take off from work.

This decision can depend on the country's policies on paid and unpaid leave, availability and cost of childcare, and support from family. While some countries offer a full year of paid maternity leave, others have limited paid leave options.

In Croatia, the country where I live, employed parents can share a total of well over a year of paid leave. Still, taking time off from work is seen as a natural choice for women, and traditionally it’s common for them to take the full duration of their paid leave - just over a year. Moreover, due to childcare unavailability and costs, many women choose to take extended leave. 

However, with increasing equal opportunities for parental leave, more fathers are taking advantage of these benefits as well.

Best practices & my take 

Clearly communicate your needs with your employer to find a solution that benefits everyone involved. The duration of the maternity leave is a personal choice that depends on your circumstances and support systems. 

For both my children, I took my maternity leave one and a half year long, which consisted of one year of paid leave, time off before the birth, vacation days, and some unpaid leave. 

My employer made the transition back to work smooth and stress-free by finding a replacement to take over my tasks and accommodating my absence. This allowed me to return to work when I felt ready, without any pressure. 

Impact of absence on career progress

While taking time off from work, the workplace usually evolves, introducing new technologies, libraries, processes, and projects. This constant change can lead you to worry - like it did me - about falling behind in your work and experience during your absence.

Best practices & my take 

While it is important to continuously improve skills and stay up to date, this should be driven by your personal motivation and not pressure from the employer. Employers should provide the necessary time and resources for personal growth and development.

I didn’t escape the fear of falling behind, and I used my free time to improve my skills through online courses and practicing coding on small iOS projects. 

However, looking back, I realize that my company values a growth-oriented environment and provides sufficient time between daily tasks and projects for learning new things. Therefore, I need not have worried so much. 

Time to catch up after returning

Returning from maternity leave can present challenges and add pressure to quickly get back on track with new projects, processes, and technologies.

However, once you’ve learned how to code, you can be confident that your skills will never truly fade away. Although you may need to refresh some technical knowledge, such as specific tools and functions, you’ll always remember the core programming principles and design patterns.

Best practices & my take 

I personally experienced stress because I felt like I was not productive enough. However, my employer was supportive and offered a reasonable onboarding period, set realistic project expectations, and provided access to help from my colleagues. With these resources in place, women who have taken maternity leave can successfully return to work and continue to excel in their careers.

Impact on salary and position after absence

When women announce their pregnancy, it is not uncommon for them to miss out on pay raises or promotions before going on leave. And upon returning to work, it can take some time for the employer to consider them for advancements. Unfortunately, some companies view maternity leave as an excuse to keep women in a stagnant position.

Best practices & my take

While it might seem pay raises and promotions depend on personal effort only, there are additional factors that must be taken into consideration, like labor market changes, inflation, and changes in the salary ranges of the company. 

An equitable approach is crucial for promoting equality and maintaining a positive work environment. 

The company I work for is a role model when it comes to supportive workplace culture - they don’t not discriminate against people based on pregnancy or leave. Instead, they consider a variety of factors when evaluating an employee's performance and contributions, and make sure that recognition is given where it is due. This approach demonstrates a commitment to fairness and sets a positive example for other companies to follow.

Considerations for changing jobs

It can be challenging for expectant mothers to change jobs, as many employers may not be willing to hire someone who will soon be going on maternity leave. However, making a career move after returning from maternity leave can be a great time for you to pursue new opportunities and challenges.

The transition can be stressful, as it can be difficult to balance the demands of work, parenting, and job searching - as was my own experience.

Best practices and my take

With the right support and flexibility from employers, the process can be managed

For example, companies may be able to accommodate the recruitment process around your schedule and needs, including conducting interviews and assessments online. By considering the unique challenges faced by new mothers, employers can make the job search process more accessible and supportive for women.

Assessing work experience

One of the challenges women face after taking maternity leave is determining the exact amount of work experience they have.

Best practices & my take

It’s important to accurately reflect maternity leave on your CV or LinkedIn profile as it can provide valuable information to current or potential employers and colleagues. 

You should not feel ashamed or afraid to acknowledge your time away from work and instead, embrace it as it can only serve as a benefit in setting clear expectations. I advise all women who have taken time off after birth to consider including this information on your professional profiles.

Work life balance 

As a parent, finding a healthy balance between work and family life can be a challenge. There are many responsibilities that come with caring for a child, such as dropping them off and picking them up from childcare, caring for them when they are sick, and spending quality time with them to support their development. 

When combined with work demands, like attending meetings and handling unexpected tasks outside of regular hours, it is easy to see how working parents, particularly women, can become stressed and burnt out.

Best practices & my takeaways

Companies that place a high value on work-life balance and support working parents are more likely to create a positive workplace culture, with happier, healthier, and more productive employees.

To support work and personal responsibilities, my employer has implemented several policies. We have flexible working hours, allowing us to better organize our time. There’s also the work-from-home option, reducing the time spent commuting and enabling us to prioritize our tasks.

When it comes to taking time off for child sickness, the company offers reasonable leave policies and nurtures a work environment that is understanding of the needs of parents. 

The win-win of supporting pregnant employees

Regardless of the field of work, taking time off for maternity leave is a common experience for many women who become mothers. 
There’s no doubt that becoming a parent brings about new challenges.

 However, speaking from personal experience it can also provide valuable experiences and lessons that can make you more motivated, organized, confident, and self-aware. 

Taking a break from work to focus on family should not be seen as a hindrance to your career, as there will be plenty of time for advancement in the future. The time spent with children is precious and cannot be replaced. 

Employers have an important role in supporting women during pregnancy and maternity leave. By offering flexible work arrangements, fair policies and showing empathy for the challenges women face during this period, they can ensure a smooth transition back to work. 

This not only creates a positive work-life balance for working mothers, but also helps maintain a productive work environment for all employees.


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