Would you have the nerve to go after a high-profile job while pregnant? Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! Inc.'s new CEO, apparently did. Five months pregnant at the time, she didn't hesitate about interviewing with Yahoo's board last June.
Of course, Mayer was already Silicon Valley royalty before she moved over to Yahoo (she was Google's first female engineer, among other achievements).
But what about those of us who are mere mortals? Should female professionals even think about making a lateral move while they're pregnant? Will prospective employers take pregnant candidates seriously? Is it just folly to tackle a new job with a baby on the way?
According to recruiter and business development coach K.C. Victor, pregnant laterals are not rareties. "I've seen it many times," she says. "But people don't usually tell me unless they're visible."
For Suong Nguyen Baty, keeping her pregnancy under wraps was not an option. "I was eight months pregnant when I came in for the interview. I was huge," says Baty, who lateraled into Quinn Emanuel's Silicon Valley office in January from Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Despite her advanced pregnancy, Baty says she jumped at the Quinn opportunity because it gave her the chance to do more intellectual property cases. "To [Quinn's] credit, they still interviewed me, even though I wasn't planning to start for seven months," she says. Not only did Quinn not hesitate about hiring her, the firm gave her an offer within a matter of weeks: "I got the offer on my due date—May 19" (her daughter arrived two weeks later).
Both Victor and Baty emphasize that it's key to discuss how much time you want off, and how that fits with the needs of the firm or company."The practical consideration is that the smaller the unit, the more it will matter if you take off a long stretch of time," says Victor.
Baty says it's generally easier to negotiate for a longer maternity leave at a law firm than a company: "I can't imagine that a company would hold a job open for seven months." Most companies, she adds, need to fill an open position quickly: "If they don't fill the position ASAP, it might get closed because of company budget or other reasons."
Victor also warns women not to get too hung up on legal technicalities. "The law is that you don't have to tell anybody [about your pregnancy], and it can't be a factor in the hiring decision." That said, she adds: "Unless you're a lying snake and you want to sue them later, you'll want to feel them out how they feel about taking time off. Regardless of what the law is, you don't want them to resent you."
But what about prospective employers—won't they naturally be hesitant about hiring a pregnant woman, even if she swears she plans on going back to work after the maternity leave? Baty says she can understand how some employers might be skeptical. In her case, she says, "I felt my work and experience would speak for itself." It helped, she adds, that Quinn had positive experiences with lawyers on maternity leave.
Besides, she adds, "interviewing while pregnant shows a certain amount of dedication."
Get The Careerist in your morning email. Sign up today—see box on upper right corner.
Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.