How does maternity coaching benefit returning parents and the organisation?
Maternity coaching is a particular type of coaching offered to women as they prepare to go off on maternity leave, have a baby and then return to the workplace. Crucially, motherhood often occurs when a woman’s career is just entering or has already entered its prime. All her knowledge, skills and experience combine to position her on the pathway to promotion, just as she becomes a mother. Yet, research shows that women’s careers often stall once they become parents.
Adjusting from being a working professional to becoming a mother and then adapting to the realities of working again is a major task. During this time, women often find that they need to balance their various identities and grow into a new version of themselves. Meanwhile, their work organisation has also changed while they have been away. Ways of working, people and structural changes take place, and this means that women need to re-establish themselves when they return. All this change impacts on a woman’s self-confidence; a people management survey found that less than a fifth of women feel confident returning to work after having a baby.
Maternity coaching provides women with a safe and confidential space in which to examine their thoughts, feelings and experiences as they begin to re-engage with their career. Every woman is different, and her circumstances will be different, meaning that how she adjusts to being back at work is deeply personal.
In my experience working as a maternity coach, some women seem to handle the transition with some degree of ease, and yet others find themselves dissolving into tears during their coaching session because they are feeling so overwhelmed. It is not uncommon for women to experience guilt, to feel that they are failing to achieve what is required of them both at home and at work or to find themselves torn between wanting to make a good impression at an important work event and getting home to feed their baby.
Providing coaching support to women as they navigate their way through this period of time is critical if organisations want to retain their female talent, achieve greater diversity at senior levels and reduce the gender pay gap. Not only does offering such support signal the organisation’s commitment to the Diversity and Inclusion agenda, but it can also serve to increase engagement and productivity as women are more likely to feel valued and supported as they return to the workplace.
Gregor and I explored maternity coaching in the first season of our podcast The Coaching Question.