If you've seen my previous posts I had a very bad experience coming back from maternity leave.

I want to have another baby in the future and I'm wandering what might be some sneaky questions to ask to make sure I will have a good experience. It needs to be sneaky because companies don't like women who have small kids at home.

It also seems that small companies don't handle mat leave very well. I find it very sexist because if I had gone on sick leave for 3 months I doubt anyone would have been so nasty to me coming back.

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    Why do you want a sneaky question? If it's important to you, why not ask outright what the company's approach to work/ life balance is (if your concerns are more generic) or what the company's maternity leave policies are (if your concerns are more specific)? – Justin Cave Mar 17 '15 at 2:28
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    If you are interviewing at companies that "don't like women who have small kids at home" then it seems highly unlikely that they would have the maternity leave policies you are looking for or the atmosphere that you're looking for. Asking the question directly would seem to let you quickly eliminate companies that aren't going to meet your standards. – Justin Cave Mar 17 '15 at 2:36
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    Sneaky will not work. If you are not going to be honest/upfront about it, how can you expect the company to be? It is as in your other comment: "...the project manager that was very weird about it". Consider that you started acting 'weird about it'. – user8036 Mar 17 '15 at 8:35
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    And drop your truth "...companies don't like women who have small kids at home." It's plain BS and as long as you have that opinion you keep seeing proof (cognitive bias), which will seriously hamper you in finding a nice job/company. – user8036 Mar 17 '15 at 8:36
  • I back @JanDoggen's comment. Cognitive bias can easily segue into confirmation bias. Getting yourself into a series of negative employer-employee relationships won't do anything good for you. Unless you are gathering materials for a best-seller book on negative employer-employee relationships. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 17 '15 at 11:12

We have had lots of women go on maternity leave and come back successfully. In general we were very glad to have to them back. Companies are very different in how they treat this. So don't take one bad experience and think it is how you will be treated everywhere.

In interviewing, I would look at larger companies as they can absorb the work during the maternity leave more easily. I would also look at the average age of the employees. You would be happier in a place with middle-aged (you understand middle age starts at 30, right?) people who are married. They will understand your needs better than a place filled with 20-something single guys. You want to look for a place that already has a flexible work-from-home program if you want to do that especially if you want to come back part-time.

Do a lot of women appear to work there? In general, professional women tend to end up in places that are more supportive of women's needs.

Ask to see the HR manual when you get the job offer and look for place that has a policy for paternity leave. It's not a killer if they don't, but any place that does allow it is likelier to be more understanding of parental issues.

But the key is to ask about the conditions you want. If they turn you down because you asked about maternity leave, then you probably would not be happy working there.

From your earlier questions, I think you are in software development. In that case stay away from start-ups and game companies. They will expect you to routinely work 60+ hours a week which is a bad thing for a new mother. Programming to support a company's main business may not be as cool, but it is a whole lot more supportive of women's needs because they generally have women in other fields as well. And a company that has a large portion of women in their main business is very used to dealing with maternity leave. Look at the health care, financial, defense business sectors or government work (just few to get you started thinking that way) instead of businesses that only do application development.

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I help run a small company, and we love our maternity leave people; and our paternity leave people.
Personally, I can't fathom the sort of person who would discard the investment in a productive person by doing anything that reduces his/her ability to come back and be happy and productive.

In other words, be careful about overgeneralization; there's a lot of variation. I would suggest that you be completely up front. Tell the person coordinating the recruiting: 'To sell me on this job, you need to show me that this place treats parents well. Can I talk to someone who's been out and back from leave?'

Don't be stealthy at all. You don't want to end up working at a place where stealth is relevant to this problem. If they don't react well to your question, you don't want to work there.

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  • Very good point! Actually, the CEO was very nice to me it was HR and the project manager that were very weird about it. Do you have some insights there? – Kerry Mar 17 '15 at 2:55
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    No, since I don't know which CEO. Your current job? A place you've interviewed? In some places, a supportive CEO is all you need. In other structures, a squirly HR person could be really bad. – user13659 Mar 17 '15 at 3:00

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