In 2016, millennials became the largest share of the American workforce, and a great deal of them are women.1234
To these women, a job isn’t just a way to make a living—it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Career triumphs five or 10 years down the road include more than a big title and a corner office; they also include having the time and space to start a family, while pursuing meaningful careers and other passions.
It’s an exciting era for women in the workplace, but many of us still ask: How can my job help me achieve all of my goals? Are there resources at work that provide support?
We asked experts—from bestselling authors to business executives—for their advice on how women can get support at work as they think about starting a family. Here’s what they had to say.
It depends. The decision to bring up fertility treatments is totally personal and hinges upon a woman’s work environment, said Agnes Fischer, author of Eggs Unscrambled: Making Sense of Egg Freezing, Fertility, and the Truth About Your Reproductive Years.
Personally, she notes, she would only ask colleagues for information about fertility treatments if she felt confident that she was in an environment that would be receptive to this kind of dialogue.
To gauge whether or not your employer will be open to this, try looking at examples being set by higher-ups. For instance, Fischer recalled a workshop she held at JPMorgan Chase’s New York City headquarters in 2017, where she spoke to hundreds of women about fertility and egg freezing. At the heart of the conversation were two female executives at the company, who openly discussed the topic in front of colleagues.
“When a [female senior leader] talks about her personal experience with fertility, suddenly [others are] like: Oh, this is a safe space. I can talk about this,” Fischer said.
But if you can’t see clear examples being set by higher-ups, you can try checking in with human resources, suggests Valerie Martinelli, CEO of Valerie Martinelli Consulting. “I would go directly to HR and ask them,” she said. “They should have [information] for you. If they don’t, then go outside of work and start learning more about it.”
The best thing to do when you know you’re going to be out of the office more regularly is be open about it. This may sound obvious, but diligently planning time off in advance and communicating with your team shows dedication to your job—which makes you look better and takes a huge burden off of your manager.
Transparency also helps normalize the conversation around taking time off for parenting-related obligations and appointments, which can be instrumental in fostering a culture that accepts—and even welcomes—this type of time away from the workday.
“It’s an opportunity to start a conversation you need to [have] about what happens when you’re not there,” said Rachael Ellison, an organizational development consultant and executive coach who specializes in work-life balance for parents. “And to show your manager, ‘I want to make sure that you’re prepared, the team is prepared and I’m prepared to come back happy.’”
Yes. The stigma around discussing how challenging parenthood can be—particularly with colleagues at work—may be the reason we think struggling with it is a personal failure, Ellison said. Opening up a dialogue can help diminish that stigma.
Plus, many companies have resources in place to help parents get the support they need. Take JPMorgan Chase, for instance; the company’s parents@jpmc program connects new moms and dads with other employees who can serve as parenting mentors. And plenty of other companies have similar programs that coach new parents and offer services to help employees during the first few months of parenthood.56
“Find out what [your] company has to offer in terms of support. I think many employees would be surprised to learn there are many resources available to assist them,” said Susan Henderson, Global Program Manager for parents@jpmc.
And even if your company does not have mentorship or coaching programs, parents shouldn’t feel like they have to keep silent when it comes to family-related questions; being open about the topic may make it easier to get past feeling like you’re having trouble keeping up, Ellison said.
When companies help empower women to succeed in their personal lives, they also set them up for new levels of success in their careers. And that’s an important precedent to set for this generation—and for generations to come.
Read more from JPMorgan Chase here.