How Women Can Avoid Losing Salary Ground After Maternity Leave
Women hold two-thirds of America’s student loan debt, according to a report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). When they graduate, they can expect to earn just 74% of what their male counterparts will make.
The gender wage gap further deepens once women leave the workforce to have children. Melanie Hanson, editor in chief of EDI Refinance, said that until women leave the workforce to have children, their earnings are largely on par with their male peers. But, women who come back to work after maternity leave find their earnings falling behind, never to recover.
What strategies can women start using now to ensure they don’t lose salary ground following maternity leave? Read on for the answers.
Know Your Legal Rights
Kelly DuFord Williams, employment attorney and founder of Slate Law Group, said one of the first actions for women is to know your legal rights. You cannot be treated differently for being pregnant or taking leave in the workplace.
“If you notice something unusual in your post-leave review or the bonus received is different or your raise seems incorrect compared to other years, ask the reasoning for the difference in writing and at the review,” said DuFord Williams.
DuFord Williams said do not attribute this unusual shift to pregnancy or leave for any reason yet. “First, get an explanation from your employer and if something still feels off, go seek legal counsel and raise your concerns to your HR department,” said DuFord Williams.
Additionally, DuFord Williams said that in many states maternity leave is treated like any other leave. You must be treated the same as those out on disability or on other types of leave.
Show Your Value Prior to Your Departure
“One of the most important things that women can do is really show their value prior to their departure,” said DuFord Williams.
This may sound like basic advice, but a good employer will do whatever they need to keep employees that make themselves invaluable or unique during the time they were working prior to maternity leave.
Cheryl Grace, executive coach and CEO at Powerful Penny LLC, recommends being proactive and complete responsibilities outside of your job description. These actions will get you noticed and show you are worth your value.
“Whether that is prior to pregnancy or during pregnancy, showing the unique, irreplaceable assets that you bring to the company will always result in a good company treating you well during and after maternity leave,” said DuFord Williams.
Create a Paper Trail
Start creating a paper trail when it’s time for your review before and after leave. DuFord Williams recommends using this time to ask questions about how you can make the leave transition smoother.
“Always make sure it is marked in your review that you are pregnant and plan to take leave. You can also follow up with emails regarding the same,” said DuFord Williams.
Join ERGs for Added Visibility
Grace recommends joining any employee resource groups (ERGs) that your company offers prior to heading on leave. Remain active and visible in these groups. Grace said that usually, that’s when they offer an opportunity for a senior leader to oversee an ERG — consider taking it!
“This is an opportunity for you to get in front of people that you probably would never have an opportunity to be in front of and showcase your initiative after a hiatus,” said Grace.
Rebuild and Refresh Your Networks
Before returning to work after maternity leave, one move that is crucial to your success is rebuilding and refreshing your networks.
“During and following maternity leave, our personal and professional networks tend to go somewhat dormant in places, as we’re spending more time focusing on family,” said Tina Hawk, senior vice president of HR at GoodHire.
Use this time to revitalize your networks and make new connections. Taking action within your network is essential to helping women find better opportunities, catch up with industry developments and regain confidence as professionals.
“Having a strong network behind you is crucial to your success as a woman returning to work,” said Hawk. “The confidence and connection that brings can help us to bridge the financial gap between us and our male counterparts.”
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