WHY I'M ADDING MATERNITY LEAVE TO MY CV
Alex Lloyd on the pros and cons of adding parental leave to LinkedIn
It’s the hardest job you’ll ever have.
For the toughest boss.
The one who never says thank you for those extra hours, screams at you when you don’t comply with his unpredictable whims, and gives you ALL the dirty work to do.
Being a parent takes dedication, stamina and multitasking might. When I took the position, it felt like I’d morphed into a worker bee on speed, maximising every waking moment and always thinking ten steps ahead.
That 'chicken and fox' conundrum is a doddle compared to the ingenuity required to get a screaming baby, buggy and shopping up the stairs to a second floor flat (post c-section and with little sleep).
Having children and raising them is also a fundamental function to our society, and one which we can’t really pretend is not happening.
So why does putting your maternity leave on your CV feel like a mistake?
This was a question I pondered when my son turned six months and I set up as a freelancer.
A complicated chain of career events meant that I had an unexplained gap in my CV that I felt I couldn’t explain in a more ‘employer-friendly’ manner.
As a feminist and union member, my heart said parenthood was something to be loud and proud about. A natural and normal part of life.
Yet in practice, with my industry as cut-throat and precarious as it is, and economic times still tough (I’ve been made redundant four times in almost 15 years – the last while pregnant), my head said I didn’t want to be written off for prospective jobs at the first hurdle due to my gender and parental status.
Throwing the question out to fellow female journalists on a forum as well as to my friends provokes quite the debate.
‘What’s the problem?’ ask some, mostly in female-dominated professions such as teaching.
Others (mostly my journalism peers) come down on the side of ‘there’s no legal need to say anything, so keep quiet’.
Emily Bain, director of Bain and Gray, an executive recruitment agency, tells me that if I had returned to the same company after maternity leave, I was still employed by them so wouldn’t have needed to mention it.
‘And if you’re applying for a new job, it is illegal for a company to ask you if you have children or plan to have children as this is considered discrimination. So it's simply not necessary to include it,’ she says.
But the mum-of-two, who started her business with fellow mum Claire Gray while her eldest was still in nappies, is positive about the message being a parent could send.
‘Your experiences make you who you are, and good employers are generally looking for well-rounded individuals who have a variety of skill sets.
‘Taking a break between jobs, be it for a gap year or 52 weeks statutory maternity leave, can add a whole extra set of transferable skills to your repertoire.
‘Don't be afraid to add it to your CV.’
Editorial consultant and publishing lecturer Alexandra Shakespeare had the same worries as me when returning to the world of work post-birth.
‘I was on a steady career climb as an editor and then suddenly I dipped to the odd freelance feature here and there, and added lecturing,’ explains the mother-of-two.
‘Without the mention of maternity leave, I thought the huge dip and sudden change of direction looked like something terrible had gone on. Also, adding it in helped me plan out my new, more family-friendly portfolio career.’
The honest inclusion did not harm her career although she has recently removed her maternity leave from LinkedIn, purely to simplify her profile.
‘It was too much info now I'm five years clear of my second maternity leave. It's still on my CV though,’ she says.
At 7.30am one morning, as I simultaneously fire off emails about the speaker for next month’s Women's Institute meeting and a big feature I’d just had commissioned - iPhone in one hand and Medela Swing breast pump in the other - I come to my decision.
I add my maternity leave to my LinkedIn profile with pride.
Because if an employer rules me out at the first hurdle due to my parental status in spite of my 14 years of experience, skills, recommendations and varied life experience, then they probably not the sort of boss I’d want to work for anyway.
They might filter me out - but I’d filter them out too. And I know which one of us would have the luckier escape.
:: Are you a mother or a father who took parental leave and added in to your CV or LinkedIn profile? What was your experience? Please let us know below.