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By Jessica T

Promoted on maternity leave

Uploaded: Mar 31, 2014

The autumn before last, I flew to New York to visit my best friend from college who had just had her first baby. My best friend leads the kind of fashionable and downright unglamorous life for which we all fell in love with Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex in the City." She's a senior editor at a New York publisher. She's clawed her way to the top after fifteen underpaid years. She pours her heart and soul into her authors and their writing. She lovingly prepares book jacket copy, has been known to model for a jacket cover or two, and sometimes tearfully advocates for the right to bid on a first novel.

Right before my friend went on maternity leave, she learned that one of the books she'd edited had made the New York Times bestseller list -- a first in her career. When her baby was four months old, she headed back to work. But before she did, she got a call from her boss, who told her that after she had her first child she had gotten a similar call from her boss. The call was to offer her a raise and to congratulate her on a job (at work) well done. Her boss relayed that the recognition and knowing she was appreciated made it that much easier to leave her baby in childcare and return to the office.

Though my friend was torn, as we all are, about returning to work, she beamed as she told the story. She was finally making a living wage in New York! And she had finally caught a break.

Promoting women (and men) when they take parental leave is an excellent way to ease the transition back to the workplace. Sure, all of the money in the world might not convince those who don't need to work to come back. But just imagine how many men and women would embrace parental leave if they knew it wouldn't necessarily slow down their career trajectory.

As a manager, I've always told my team that promotion is an outcome resulting from mastery of skills, accomplishments, and luck (the right circumstances to highlight abilities and the right manager to recognize them). I'm not advocating for promoting a person just because he or she takes leave. But if the timing and the circumstances add up, why not?

I got my own exhilarating and unexpected news while out on leave (and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my director and mentor to boot.) Words can't describe how meaningful it is when your colleagues to come together and advocate on your behalf in your absence. It puts returning to work on the sweet side of bittersweet.


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