The same week my book was published, Forbes.com posted an article entitled, “The Pregnant Entrepreneur and the Venture Capitalist Who Wouldn’t Fund Her.” Jessica Jackley, cofounder of two significant small businesses, shares her reactions to a blog post where one of her investors questions her ability to be a mom and a leader since she is expecting twins in the fall.
Helloooooo. Moms are born leaders. Or did this male VC never have a mother?
Jessica points out an attitude that any pregnant business owner deals with at some point, whether it is from an investor, a client, a family member, or (sadly) herself. No one ever asks a man if he’ll be able to continue to do his job after he expands his family, and yet someone will ask that of a pregnant entrepreneur.
Like many other places in life, a woman may have to over-plan, proactively explain, and just plain out-perform her male counterparts to sail through these waters. It’s gonna happen, ladies, so be ready for at least one neanderthal to bring this up, or to make an unfavorable decision during your pregnancy. It’s not the end of the world. In a few months, your motherhood will be more of a title than a fashion accessory.
If you get burned by discriminatory attitudes, remember that the good guys do outnumber the bad guys. I have two favorite stories about client reactions during my pregnancies. One client contacted me for a work session during my ninth month of pregnancy. We chatted on the phone and arranged to meet for the appointment. I prepared him for a very pregnant person arriving on his doorstep, but I also made it clear that if I didn’t arrive as planned, it was only due to an early arrival. We did joke that, as a professional organizer, I intended to deliver on my due date, and that’s what happened. He was great to work with.
The second story was a design client who put off a project we were planning, and at the last possible minute begged me to do a project before my maternity leave because his kids were visiting. He appreciated the redesign job we completed (genius was the word he used), and then asked if I had moved the baby grand piano. This guy had no concept that a pregnant woman would have any limitations and could be suspect of moving a baby grand. I had worked for him before, and so he knew to expect good things from my company.
I can’t imagine any circumstance as an entrepreneur where running into discriminatory attitudes would be cause for more than a little grousing and whining. If you think otherwise, or have been in a situation that required action, I’d love to hear about it. Mostly, I was able to chalk up subtle doubts and concerns from clients to experience and move on. Remember, pregnancy is temporary. Just about 50% of the workforce is female, and once you get through this stage, you won’t be special or a target to anyone, except your little ones.