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Getting a new job while pregnant? Here's how it's done

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Photo courtesy Kate Morrison via ABC news Photo courtesy Kate Morrison via ABC news

By Nicole Pelletiere

(ABC) -- A woman who was hired while pregnant by an advertising agency has shared her experience in a buzzed-about blog that she posted on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

Kate Morrison, 37, of Santa Monica, California, was offered the position mid-January at 72andSunny in Los Angeles after revealing to the company that she was about three months pregnant with her second child. She later published an article about it online.

Now six months along, Morrison started her new job on March 19, 2018 and hopes her story inspires women to go after what they want.

"I think it [the article] did strike some sort of [chord]," Morrison told ABC News of the piece, which received hundreds of supportive comments. "The reactions surprised me. We do need to have a conversation where this gets shared a little more broadly."

Read Morrison's post below, reprinted with permission to ABC:

'I’m 24 weeks pregnant and I just started at 72andSunny Los Angeles as their director of production.'

Yes, you read that correctly: I just started working at 72andSunny Los Angeles as their director of production and I’m 24 weeks pregnant. They hired me pregnant and they knew that they did.

When I tell people this, I get all sorts of reactions. Some women have seen it as a victory. Others can’t believe it. Some think that I’m insane. Some seem to think the company might be insane. Mostly, I wish this wasn’t news at all. I wish it were business as usual, just in elastic-waisted jeans. Women who are pregnant should be just as valuable to the workforce as anyone else. So, in this hopes that this inspires one woman to run at an opportunity she didn’t feel she could, I wanted to share my story.

I will start with the truth: In the present environment in America, it is weird to interview for a job when you’re pregnant. I didn’t know anyone who had ever done it. I wasn’t sure what to say when and I didn’t know how it would all go down -- if it did. But here’s what happened.

I wish this wasn’t news at all.

It was December 2017 and I was working as the head of production at BBH New York. I wasn’t looking to move, but I got an email from 72andSunny asking if I’d be interested in taking a call to talk about a role in LA. My first rule, which should be everyone’s first rule -- female or not, pregnant or not -- is that you should ALWAYS take that call.

But here was my hiccup: a week before 72andSunny reached out to me, I’d peed on a stick. Not a tree-in-the-woods-camping-type-stick but an ‘are you pregnant’ type stick. It read PREGNANT. This was exciting, but I’d also had a miscarriage six months before and learned, the sort of hard way, that these things aren’t really real until they’re really real.

So, I thought about not taking the call, but rationalized that neither thing was real and how pissed would I be if I didn’t take the call and then had another miscarriage? Also, as I mentioned earlier -- you ALWAYS take the call. So I did.

The next day. It was an exciting call. A ‘wow, this could be interesting call’ that call led to another call … which was also great.

And everything was tracking OK with the pregnancy too. It was all too early to tell if it was really going to be OK but also, I didn’t have the job. They were both still concepts which could just as easily vanish as come true.

As luck would have it, winter break hit and then a snowstorm. By the time I got to my formal interview at 72andSunny, I was 9 weeks pregnant and felt it. In fact, I could barely zipper the high-waisted pants I had brought to wear. I knew my chances of having a miscarriage were still around 20 percent, but I couldn’t help wrestling with the questions: Should I tell them? Am I lying to people? What is the right thing to do in this situation? Am I really going to run at a new job if I do stay pregnant?

So I consulted my husband and mentors. While I’ve been very lucky in this business and have great support, all my mentors are men and clearly none of them had been through this, but they all agreed that I should keep going through the process and that I should keep the info to myself. For now. Getting the job shouldn’t have anything to do with my ability to reproduce. Plus, they felt that if 72andSunny really wanted me then they’d find a way to make it work, pregnant or not.

I also read Sheryl Sandberg’s accounts about being pregnant at Facebook, Susan Wojcicki's story about taking the job at Google pregnant and about Jacinda Ardern becoming the prime minister of New Zealand pregnant. I drew strength from those women and their stories and mustered the courage to believe that if they could do those jobs, then surely I could do this.

They’d find a way to make it work, pregnant or not.

I kept going and I ran the interviews with as much coherence as I could muster. I loved the people that I met at 72andSunny and I also kept hearing that they put people first. So again, in the midst of all the honesty and humanity I was being shown by 72andSunny, I felt like a bit of a fraud not being totally open in return.

I left 72andSunny truly excited by everyone I had met while also having a totally existential Murphy’s law realization that, of course, the only way that these things would happen was if they BOTH happened. As luck would have it, there you go. I got my blood work back from the doctor saying that the baby was healthy, growing and viable the same week 72andSunny extended their offer.

I didn’t tell them that I was pregnant until the offer was something we were both excited about. But, for me, that was the end of the road. I couldn’t take a job and run at a new -- and huge -- opportunity knowing something that they did not. If both of these things were going to happen and I was going to be excited about both of them, I wanted 72andSunny to be excited about both of them too.

I had some more practical reasons for telling them too. As a new employee looking to start 4.5 months before my baby was due, I wanted to know what sort of maternity cover I would be offered -- especially as I would be walking away from four months' full pay at BBH.

Stephanie Silvera, the recruitment director I had most of my conversations with, was the person I called, palms sweating, totally not relaxed, to tell them I was pregnant. She was probably the eighth person on the planet to know. While I had been wracked with anxiety in NYC and worrying about when to call or what to say, she didn’t miss a beat. She was so on board with it and so excited for me that it cemented 72andSunny for me and also made me cry (which, in all honesty, is not something I enjoy...).

I can still do my job perfectly well while growing a child.

Then I got a call from Matt Murphy, their ECD and a partner of the company, saying that my being pregnant didn’t change why they wanted me here. The pregnancy was something we’d work around, but in the grand scheme of things, this was an amazing thing for me and my family and that was the most important thing to remember.

I figured it would get down to brass tacks with the maternity policy and I also figured that if they weren’t really serious, this was where they could make it tough for me and create an out for themselves. Then they sent through their maternity policy. It allows primary caregivers to take six months paid leave with flexible working before and after you go on leave -- and kicks in, in full, once you’ve been an employee here for 30 days. I didn’t need to get my elbows out. I didn’t need to fight to have something written in for me that would make me the exception.

To me, that was one of the most exciting and refreshing pieces of Talent/HR protocol I have ever seen. As a woman who is a manager and a mother who thought for a long time about having my first child before I had her, I firmly believe that the lack of maternity pay and the one-year employment before eligibility contingency that most companies employ, is one of the things that stifles women most who want to be both leaders and mothers.

If you have to be at a company for a year before you get to have your baby in order to be eligible for benefits, you’re basically shackled to that company from the moment you start thinking about conception. The fact that wasn’t how 72andSunny viewed things at all was a complete revelation to me and for the first time in a long time, I felt like THIS is how corporate America could help change the working environment for mothers and keep more of us in the workforce.

I do also realize that 72andSunny is a pioneer in this space and I do recognize that these benefits are exceptional in the current market. But they should NOT be. These are benefits that we can all push for -- in leadership, but also beyond. It’s what we need to do. I also hope that by talking about what normal should be and socializing this information, we can help make this sort of story much less the exception and much more the rule. Because, quite frankly, I can still do my job perfectly well while growing a child. And so can any other woman out there.

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