Lately I have taken notice of the large number of public/private sector career swaps. Specifically, a lot of women I work with seem to be rushing out to have children or newly returning after taking years of leave to raise their children. It’s kind of difficult not to notice the changes, as it seems to be creating quite the scramble when it comes to re-staffing, workload adjustments and keeping our departments running smoothly. What I also find interesting, and which makes sense, is that women tend to start making these significant changes in their career roles leading up to the time when they decide to have children or the time when they have decided they are done having children. A lot of women in the public sector have left private sector jobs in preparation for upcoming motherhood or, soon after returning from having their last child, leave for the private sphere.

Due to the significantly better benefits offered and more leniency in leave timelines when women go on maternity leave, it’s hard not to be attracted to what the general public service offers a working woman (or man) who is interested in taking paternity leave. With over 90% of your salary still being paid out while on your one year leave, the financial burdens of having a child are that much less than the average family who generally don’t see that much of their income coming in when they take leave. Additionally, from what I can tell, there is a lot of effort put into accommodating maternity leaves and even accommodating extra time off if requested once the one year lapses. I’ve never really worked in the private sector seriously, or long enough, to notice any trends in their maternity leaves or the way they handle them. I do however see, especially in an higher level role, the private sector (or even the upper echelons of the public sector) potentially having a bit of anxiety and distaste when their female employees approach the topic of needing time off in increments of a year to have babies.

I would say the age range for mat leave is around 28 – 37 years old. Noticing that this demographic is somewhat older than those on episodes of Teen Mom,  further indicates to me that they, more likely than not, chose to become established in their careers before deciding to have their children.

What I begin to wonder though, as a young women getting into the groove of things (ie: life), is where I will fit in to this? With 4 years to go until I fall into “the range” will my fertile years begin to work against me? Do employers look at your potential to “move up” based on the possibility of you leaving to start a family? Do newlyweds have a stigma among employers? My current employer seems to embrace marriages and new babies, but I do notice that there is underlying sighs of “this again” when they realize they have to completely re-staff to backfill leaves and the coming waves of baby booms, but I still wonder how everything works in minds of those people in the background making the staffing decisions.

If I choose to be one of those women who want to have a career and a family will the choice to do both work against me? Is it enviable that men remain in high ranking leadership roles largely due to the fact that you can, most often than not, count on them to be the ones continuing to work when they have children? If I want to have children in the next 5- 10 years do I remain in the public sector to reap in the benefits of their mat leave “packages”, or do I go where the wind takes me and potentially risk moving into a private sector job that resents my choice to raise a family?

Further to the aforementioned questions, if I wanted to become a woman of power and obtain an executive level position do I have to wait to work my way up until I am out of my child bearing years? I feel as though it is rare to see higher ranking women in their late twenties or early 30s, unless they are women who have chosen not to have families, and that kind of disappoints me. Do we have to choose one or the other? Do we have to remain in lower level “minion-esque” roles until we are done with having children? Does taking maternity leave in the middle of your prime career development years kill your progress?

I’d like to think that this ever developing world we live in is becoming more accommodating to people’s lifestyles and trying to promote a “work-life balance” but I still can’t kick the feeling that there is an underlying resentment towards women who want motherhood and a career. Does one of these roles need to take a backburner or can you have it all?

I guess my question in summary comes down to — does having a uterus and wanting to use it work against women in the working world?

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