Working for a financial institution that prides itself on being family-friendly, Anna* found herself trapped by the stereotype of what working mums want.
“I guess I’m assertive, so my male colleagues didn’t know how to handle me – I was told I should be less outspoken. My boss was a traditional male and the leadership team a bit of a boys’ club. The day I announced I was pregnant, my career started going downhill. I could feel the change in attitude around me – my colleagues wrapped me in cotton wool, told me to stop wearing high heels and side-lined me from projects. I was told not to worry about my career and just focus on the baby. But being career-minded, I wanted to take four months’ maternity leave and return full-time. I was openly criticised for that decision and categorically told I should take a year off. Though my partner worked in the same team as me and fully supported my decision – he earned less than me – he was never offered shared parental leave or flexible working arrangements. We felt our choice as a couple was not respected. The conflict over my maternity leave eventually broke my relationship with my boss. I was seconded to another team and informally advised by HR not to put in a formal grievance, even though I’d clearly been bullied. When the secondment ends early next year, I won’t have a job. My career has nose-dived – I’ll probably have to take a job below the level I was at, just to get back in.”