UCL School of Management

1 March 2022

Conversations about fertility in the workplace

Multiple pregnancy tests lined up on a yellow background

Events in our personal lives impact our professional lives too, so why do we not share these fundamental life events with our colleagues and employers and seek appropriate support? Speaking with the Financial Times, Raina Brands shares why in 2021 she updated her CV to include two major personal life events; her recurrent pregnancy loss (2019-2020) and then the birth of her son (2021).

Raina wrote “Although one line on a CV cannot speak to the profound physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy loss…I believe it is time to update #academic CVs to be inclusive of women’s whole lives.”

Whilst most reacted positively to her sharing such personal details in a professional arena, even going as far to say that she was an “inspiration” and that they felt able to follow suit, she did receive a few negative responses. This one update and simple tweet opens up the discussion, is fertility a topic to be discussed at the workplace?

When employees experience a family death, this news is often shared in the workplace to support them at a difficult time, for example, colleagues will consider this when interacting and adding to someone’s workload. In Raina’s experience of miscarriage, at the time no one knew what she was experiencing. A year on Raina says she is glad to have done it, “academia is publish or perish. My productivity was affected. Once I worked through the grief it occurred to me that loads of women are not able to talk about [miscarriage]. I thought I should say it out loud and put it on my CV” she says.

As organisations do more to support fertility through initiatives such as egg-freezing schemes, the demands and long hours actually discourage women from starting a family as this culture is incompatible with family life.

Whilst schemes to support fertility are inevitably a good thing, they will not be effective if the culture around motherhood does not change. Many women are reluctant to share their plans to have a baby for fear of the repercussions it could have on their careers.

After being so open about her personal experience Raina is now researching the career repercussions of disclosure.

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Last updated Tuesday, 1 March 2022