When I was 27 years old, I had my first child: SEEN Connects, an influencer marketing agency. For six years, I’ve grown the business internationally, opening offices in the UK and US and hitting £20m annual turnover.
In nearly four weeks, I’m going to take my longest break since I founded my firstborn to step away and become a mother – this time to an actual baby.
I’ve always wanted a family and have never shied away from speaking about that. But when I found out I was pregnant the joy came with the shivering realisation that a frank conversation with my investors was looming.
There are 39 million parents in the UK, so you’d think this wouldn’t be the case. However, only 5.5% of CEO positions around the world are held by women. This means 94.5% of CEOs will never face the hurdles that I’ve encountered over the past eight or so months.
When to tell investors you’re pregnant?
I’ve heard endless stories about women hiding their bumps at work, or navigating work drinks with sparkling water masquerading as a gin and tonic. I get it. Not everyone is in a stable position to reveal their personal news immediately. I found that it doesn’t matter how secure your job is, it’s no easier to find the moment or best way to disclose that you’re expecting.
The first hurdle, from a business point of view, was when and how to tell my investors I was pregnant. Our relationship is built on a great deal of trust, so this moment of disclosure had to be dealt with sensitively. Too early and I risked telling them before I was comfortable with the world knowing; telling them too late might spook our nurtured sense of trust.
Right or wrong, I told my investors that I was pregnant the second the 12-week mark dawned. If I left it any longer, I would feel like I was deceiving them, which puts a slightly different spin on mum guilt. Next, was telling the team and planning what the heck would happen during my maternity leave.
Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve learnt a few invaluable lessons about what to do in the workplace.
1. Prepare for negativity
You’ll receive a million hugs, a few tears and a trillion ‘congratulations’, but as sad as it is true, not everyone will be as elated and excited about your pregnancy as you are. Eight months in, and with a lot of practice now at sharing my news, and still the comments are coming. My advice? Gird yourself.
2. Keep your announcement brief
I’m a forward planner…of every eventuality. I constantly crisis comm every scenario in my head. So, of course, I prepped for the inevitable and the unexpected reactions to announcing my pregnancy to my investors and management team. What I’ve learned is to keep to the facts and keep the disclosure brief.
If you don’t have a maternity plan yet, don’t open the door to that conversation. Unsure if you’ll be back full-time? It’s no one else’s business yet. And the same goes for every aspect that will affect your job.
3. Do not apologise – you’ve done nothing wrong
It’s practically an adage that women over apologise, but I am that cliché. I did it. I said, “I know it happened sooner than we expected”, and, “sorry, I know the timing isn’t great”. Face. Palm. Head. I am excited to be expecting my first child, so what the heck was I apologising for? That’s nothing to be sorry about.
4. Tell your boss or your investor first
The temptation to tell your work wife is real. It might be easier to tell the person you’re closest with first, but if it ends up on the rumour mill it won’t help in the long run.
Sedge Beswick is the CEO of SEEN Connects.