What Organisations can do to Retain Key Female Talent During Parental Transitions

What Organisations can do to Retain Key Female Talent During Parental Transitions

The advent of motherhood represents a significant life transition for women everywhere, including women in the workplace. It also offers organisations a great opportunity to step in and actively support their women in the shorter term with their well-being and in the longer term with their productivity and career progression.

Given the significant investment in recruiting and developing female talent, retaining them at this critical inflection point in their personal and professional lives makes good fiscal and strategic sense for organisations. The transition to parenthood has always been a stressful time for employees and with the added stress placed on working parents during the Corona virus pandemic, the expectation of organisational support is more pressing than ever.Just how significant has the impact of the pandemic been on work-life balance for working parents? The data on this has been alarming.

LeanIn.Org & McKinsey (2020) reported that 13% of men and 23% of women with children under 10 years old are considering leaving the workforce. Amongst parents overall these numbers were 11% in men and 18% in women, and without children 10% for both men and women.

The data shows that during the Coronavirus pandemic, women with children, especially with small children, are more likely to leave their employment than their male counterparts.

So, what are the challenges that women face in their transition towards parenthood?

Besides the obvious biological reality of childbearing and all its associated physical and emotional changes, there are psychological hurdles for women in becoming parents. Motherhood represents a period of both loss and new possibilities for women (1). It has also been described as “an experience of disorientation and re-orientation” of identity, impacting physical, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual domains (1).

Not only are women required to adapt to becoming parents and the new roles and responsibilities that go along with this, they also need to re-evaluate their identities and what has meaning for them in their new role as a working parent. At best, this rediscovery can be an empowering journey of positive growth and self-development (2). However, for many women, the transition into motherhood is more likely to be characterized by a lack of social support and feelings of isolation that create unnecessary suffering and challenges in trying to manage their new roles as working parents (3).

What can organisations do to support positive experiences for female employees transitioning into motherhood?

Millward´s (2006) research offers some useful insights for organisations about how to enhance the current statutory measures typically offered. One potential suggestion is for organisations to actively support women to manage the psychological aspects of the transition from pregnancy through to returning to work – a period in which the psychological contract (the unspoken expectations and assumptions between employer and employee) may change. She points out that during pregnancy female employees may experience a gradual loss of visibility.

Childbirth itself can raise significant doubts about the viability of returning to work. Even for women who are able to move through these psychological challenges, a return to work may involve questions about how to revalidate themselves in their new dual identity as workers and mothers. Adding these concerns to the common fears of having ‘missed out’ due to maternity absence, it is easy to see how new working mothers often feel the need to prove their worth all over again.

So, what are the practical steps organisations can take to support the psychological transitions working women face with motherhood?

Clearly the first step is to consider the whole cycle of pregnancy through to work return (4). An important starting point is an active co-operation between employee and employer and open discussions regarding expectations. Overall, actions which helps to retain a sense of continuity of valued organizational membership during this transition into parenthood are recommendable. As an example Millward (2006) has suggested the idea of an opportunity for becoming mother to take some ownership or involvement when organising cover.

Importantly, she also stresses the need to take individual needs and experiences into account and to take a “case-sensitive” approach in these discussions, recognizing individual needs and challenges. If the organisational culture does not easily support such open dialogue, there may be a need to educate and train HR employees to support these discussions. Also, it may be useful to introduce transition coaching within the organisation to allow employees a safe reflective space to process their concerns and develop strategies for addressing them proactively.

Additional support during this critical time is an easy win for organisations who want to stem the tide of mid-career attrition which besets organisations across industry sectors and contributes significantly to the dearth of women in senior roles globally.

What are you doing as an organisation do to support female staff during their maternity transition?

Here are some questions to ask before planning supportive measures for your working mothers:

1. Identify female workers transitioning into parenthood.
How many pregnant female workers and new mothers do you have in your organisation?

2. Explore the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable workers.
Who is facing significant challenges as a result of the pandemic? What is the evidence of this? What has been done by the organisation to help them thus far? What else could be done?

3. Create opportunities for open discussions
How do you meet the needs of your transitioning female workers in an agile and sensitive way? How do you facilitate open and ongoing discussions regarding work life balance?How do you help your female workers manage their  career planning in the face of significant life transitions?

Want More?

This blog was written by a member of our March 2021 Coaching Fundamentals Cohort who has a passion for supporting women in the workplace. If you’d like to learn more about Coaching Fundamentals and register for our 2021 or 2022 cohorts, please get in touch or check out our website


  1. Athan, A., & Reel, H. L. (2015). Maternal psychology: Reflections on the 20th anniversary of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology. Feminism & Psychology, 25(3), 311-325.
  2. Athan, A. (2020). Reproductive identity: An emerging concept. American Psychologist, 75(4), 445-456. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000623
  3. Athan, personal communication, Spring 2021
  4. Millward, L.J. (2006). The transition to motherhood in an organizational context: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 79, 315–33
  5. Women in the Workplace 2020, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey, 2020 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace

What Coaching Fundamentals Did For Me

What Coaching Fundamentals Did For Me

I joined the Coaching Fundamentals Cohort of 2020 and at first, I felt out of my depth as a myriad of questions tumbled and swirled through my mind.

What did I know about coaching? How different is it to counselling, mentoring or even psychology? Would I be any good at mastering new skills and cutting new neural pathways? How would coaching theory align with my values and my beliefs?

In my heart, I knew I wanted to help people. People, who like me, were looking to reset their lives. I desired to be instrumental in guiding those effective changes in myself and in others as we journey to discovering the best of who we created to be. To have confidence and hurdle obstacles or tear down walls of restriction.

In Coaching Fundamentals, the impact for me from completing the course has been a steady growing awareness that there are no limitations in life.

There are options and opportunities, embedded within each person, and coaching tools coupled with well-placed questions open up our thinking, illuminating potential scenarios.

There is diversity in culture, language and viewpoints. Respecting and allowing difference means embracing all people as equal and valuable. I have learnt the power of understanding emotions, being aware of what drives or triggers us, knowing strengths and weaknesses. How these empower us to make internal adjustments, so that over time we are able to sustain good social behaviour and lead with greater confidence and clarity, despite any setbacks we experienced.

There is an art to building effective relationships, and it rests on the skill of learning to listen. The course taught me that different people listen differently and how this influences relationships. Sound communication flows from an ability to focus, be intentional and patiently create value in shared conversation. Effectiveness in coaching rises and falls on “How I Listen”.

The greatest impact has been the deeper awareness of transformational relationships and what motives drive these, and that sometimes, a well-timed silence is more powerful than anything I can say or do.

Coaching Fundamentals has equipped me with the framework on which I can continue to build, take responsibility for myself and through commitment to outcomes, achieve my goals and help others achieve theirs.

– Debby Vicent, Senior Manager, July 2020 cohort.

Want More?

This blog was written by a member of our July 2020 Coaching Fundamentals Cohort. If you’d like to learn more about Coaching Fundamentals and register for our 2021 cohorts, please get in touch or check out our website

5 Strategies for Dealing with your Imposter Syndrome

5 Strategies for Dealing with your Imposter Syndrome

In our last blog we learned that Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internal fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, despite external evidence of their competence.

Those experiencing this phenomenon struggle to shake the belief that they do not deserve all they have achieved and incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or even worse, believe that their success has come about as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more capable or intelligent than they actually are.

The challenge with imposter syndrome is that most people suffer in silence. This is because their belief is that if they speak up about it, it will materialize/act as proof of their lack of competence and cause others to review their positive perceptions of the individual.

This is why an important strategy in combatting Imposter Syndrome, is to create a space for people to talk about it.  Once they understand that it is a common experience, it is normalized and sufferers can begin to support one another to develop strategies for overcoming it.

So, what can you do if you recognize that you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome? Here are some suggestions:

#1 Get a mentor/coach

The power of Imposter Syndrome is in its silence. The ability to speak out your insecurities and fears in a safe, non-judgmental environment has an immediate and powerful mitigating effect. The very act of reaching out to another in this way, helps to normalize the feelings and breaks you out of isolation and obsessive internal reflection. A skilled coach will also help to raise awareness about your inner dialogue as well as stories you might be holding to about yourself, to help you into a healthier self-perception.

#2 Play to your strengths

Imposter’s tend to obsess about their weaknesses and perceived failures. Recognize where you can improve, but commit to focusing on your strengths to develop them into signature strengths. Besides replenishing your energy, working to your strengths will give you a strong sense of self-confidence and allow you to add real value to whatever you are undertaking.

#3 Mentor someone else

Work with those who know less than you, to pass on your experience and wisdom. This will remind you of how far you have come and help you to verbalize and become conscious of everything you do know.

#4 Celebrate your successes

Learn to celebrate what you did well. Imposters rarely take time out to recognize their achievements and to reward themselves for their investment in their own development.

#5 Create a better ‘personal story’

If you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, you could probably benefit from reframing the way you think about yourself and your life story. By becoming aware of your personal story, you can ask yourself whether this story is really serving you and how you can adjust it in order to make room for more success.

Want More?

Check out our Imposter Syndrome Awareness Training. A fully online programme designed to explore the syndrome and create a safe space for you consider its behaviours and impacts in your personal and professional life.

Feeling like a fraud? You may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome

Feeling like a fraud? You may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome

Picture this.You’ve just been given a great promotion! One which you have worked hard for. Once the initial elation has passed you find yourself lying awake at night worrying about whether you are competent enough to manage the task, and what others might think when they find out about your new role. You are suffering from imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internal fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, despite external evidence of their competence. Those experiencing this phenomenon struggle to shake the belief that they do not deserve all they have achieved and incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or even worse, believe that their success has come about as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more capable or intelligent than they actually are.

First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, imposter phenomenon isn’t an official psychological diagnosis but psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt.

Imposter feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression. Also common is the experience of having a strong internal critic (a form of negative self-talk) which undermines self-confidence and creates a ‘reality gap’ between how an individual feels about themselves and the positive feedback they are gaining from their environment.

In our work with emerging leaders suffering from Imposter Syndrome, we have found that many of them have a strong personal ‘story’ about themselves which sets limits on how successful they see themselves becoming. One client I worked with had begun her professional life as a personal assistant and worked her way to VP over a period of years.  Her personal script was that she was just a ‘girl from the country’ that had somehow got lucky enough to progress in her career. This personal script becomes a kind of unspoken contract with herself and set limits on how ‘successful’ she would allow herself to become. When she was promoted to VP, her current reality was so different from her personal script that she began to experience a high degree of self-doubt and anxiety about her VP role. Through coaching, she was enabled to become aware of and adjust her personal story about herself to reconcile with her current realities. 

Besides having a limiting personal story, there are a number of other factors that may contribute to individuals being challenged by Imposter Syndrome:

#1. Being a High Achiever

Many people who feel like imposters grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. Societal pressures only add to the problem. If self-worth is linked strongly to achievement, the chances of experiencing ‘Imposter Syndrome’ are enhanced

#2. Belonging to a Minority Group

The experience seems to be more common among minorities, and some minority groups may be especially susceptible. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed ethnic-minority college students and found that Asian-Americans were more likely than African-Americans or Latino-Americans to experience imposter feelings. Interestingly, the researchers also found that imposter feelings more strongly predicted mental health problems than did stress related to one’s minority status (Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 2013). In fact, it seems that differing in any way from the majority of your peers — whether by race, gender, sexual orientation or some other characteristic — can fuel the sense of being a fraud.

#3. Starting a New Endeavour

Imposter phenomenon seems to be more common among people who are embarking on a new endeavor. Whilst a measure of self-doubt is normal, those with imposter syndrome have real trouble believing that they are worthy of the position they currently hold or are capable of succeeding in it.

#4. Having Perfectionist Tendencies

Imposter syndrome and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Many times sufferers hold a conscious or unconscious assumption that every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and, because they don’t want to be exposed, they rarely ask for help. When unsure how to proceed, therefore, they may procrastinate, putting off starting a task, out of fear that they won’t be able to complete it to the necessary high standards. Alternatively, they may over-prepare, spending much more time on a task than is necessary.

This pattern of behavior has a self-reinforcing tendency. After having gone through contortions to do a project perfectly, when they succeed, those suffering from Imposter Syndrome begin to believe that all their anxiety and effort has paid off. Consequently, they develop the belief that the stress and strain associated with their perfectionism is contributing to their success and they have a hard time giving it up for a more sustainable approach to project completion.

Is Imposter Syndrome something you suffer from?

Leader as Coach- The Key to Effective Leadership

Leader as Coach- The Key to Effective Leadership

The leadership landscape has shifted. Leaders are being called upon to offer more support and guidance than ever before as employees learn to adapt to the constantly changing environment of the post-Covid world. 

To cope with this new reality, companies are moving away from traditional command-and-control leadership practices toward something very different: The leader as coach. Adding coaching strategies to a leader’s toolkit means that they can not only keep an eye on performance, but also support and engage their people through challenges and change to achieve outstanding results.

Our Leader as Coach Programme is designed to work in with the busy schedule of today’s leaders. The programme content is drawn from our decades of executive coaching and leadership experience to offer practical and powerful coaching strategies to enhance leadership impact.


Listen to what one of our satisfied clients have to say about the positive impact our Leader as Coach programme has had within their organisation.

Want More?

Get in touch to find out about our Leader as Coach Programme.  

Perfectionism and Burnout- The Critical Link

Perfectionism and Burnout- The Critical Link

Working from home has been anything BUT the panacea for stress that many had hoped. With trying to balance home and work responsibilities in a new and unexpected way, it’s becoming hard to remember a time before we started being ‘busy’ all the time.    


For many, it feels like an achievement just making it through the day. While we take on more work and responsibilities, work longer hours and deal with higher levels of stress, our minds and bodies are paying the price. As our energy outputs exceed our energy intake, burnout is the inevitable consequence if we don’t actively recognize and circumvent it.   

Studies suggest thatanywhere from 23–54% of workershave previously or are currently dealing with burnout. So, it’s an issue we all need to understand. While each burnout experience is individual, there are clear triggers to look out for and proven strategies to help you avoid, alleviate, and recover from burnout symptoms.   

Across two interview podcasts, Tracy May, CEO of The Diversitas Group talks to a Senior L&D Advisor from the Professional Services sector, Alex Rigale, who suffered burnout last year. 

If you are interested in knowing more about Alex’s journey or would like to speak to him personally, you can reach him on [email protected] 

In this first Interview Alex and Tracy unpack the road to burnout. Listen Now!


Perfectionism and Burnout- The Critical Link Interview 1

by The Diversitas Group

Perfectionism and Burnout- The Critical Link Interview 2

by The Diversitas Group

Want More? 

Is Your Net-Working? Create and leverage your operational, personal and strategic networks.