There was no hiding the bump.
When Meghan Leatherman interviewed for a communications manager position with Social Venture Partners Arizona in Phoenix, she was noticeably pregnant — something women often worry will limit their chances of being hired.
Leatherman had received some counsel from colleagues prior to her interview, and she decided to tackle it head-on. She wasn’t shy about calling attention to the “elephant in the room.”
“Then, I said, I’m committed to working,” she recalls. “This isn’t my first baby, and I know I’m committed to working.”
Across the table sat Terri Wogan Calderón, the organization’s executive director.
“She put it right out there. But I didn’t really even see the pregnancy once she started talking,” Calderón says. “She’s so capable, and she’s what I was looking for.”
The fact that Leatherman would give birth just one month after starting her job wasn’t an issue. More important was how they would work together once the baby came. The position was part-time for a nonprofit, and Leatherman and her husband couldn’t justify the cost of daycare for their newborn.
But Calderón knew she had found the right person for the job, so she agreed to a flexible arrangement. Leatherman could work from home as needed, and she could bring her baby to work.
“I was looking for someone who would stay with me for a while,” Calderón says. “If I’m looking for longevity, I’ve got to be able to help. As long as she can give me a good work product, I’m willing to try.”
Baby On Board
Micah, Leatherman’s second child, was born the week of July 4 last year. Calderón was traveling, and the office was quiet that month.
“I never really took maternity leave,” Leatherman says. “I worked from home off and on that month. I worked a lot through email. And I wasn’t required to be anywhere.”
Several weeks later, Leatherman and Micah were going into the office regularly. When she has meetings, Micah is with her. (As much as possible, she and her husband manage their schedules so that her toddler daughter doesn’t have to be with her too.)
A lot of her work can be done at home, and if there are meetings where her son isn’t welcome, she figures out an alternate arrangement. But those situations are rare. “Everyone’s been super supportive,” she says.
And her colleagues recognize her abilities.
“Meghan does a great job. And she’s got it worked out with her family that she makes herself available when we need her. I appreciate that,” Calderón says. “Plus, we’ve gotten to know Micah — and he’s awesome.”
“When I had children, you either worked or you didn’t,” notes Calderón, who is a mother of three and grandmother of eight. “There was no flexibility. There was no part-time. How wonderful that would have been.”
Business leaders and other professionals have had the opportunity to see Leatherman and Micah in action. “I’ve heard, ‘How amazing you get to bring him to work,’ so many times,” Meghan says. “I hear it from men, from women, from all demographics. That’s been really great.”
Their arrangement has inspired action too. One business owner had lost a stellar assistant because he wouldn’t make things work with her after she became a mother. “Because of what he’s seen in us, he’s gone back to her,” Leatherman says.
For Calderón and SVP Arizona, a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating philanthropy, strengthening nonprofits and investing in collaborative solutions that address social challenges, there’s a sense of responsibility to demonstrate that businesses can support parents and families.
“We say we’re a country of family values. So in an environment where people have to work and want strong families, we have to model the expectation,”
says Calderón, who was named a 2017 Phoenix Business Journal Outstanding Woman in Business.
“I want young mothers to succeed. Finding that balance of being a mom and being able to work and contribute — that is a hard balance. Why wouldn’t we make it easier for each other?”
A Successful Partnership
To make it work, Leatherman has to stay focused and organized — and plan ahead. For days she goes into the office, she plans for food and bottles and activities for Micah. And when she’s working, she makes sure she manages her time well so that when she sits down to work after the kids are in bed, she has time to do everything.
And just like any job, Leatherman experiences ebbs and flow in volume.
“I put myself into things fully and full-heartedly,” she says. “I’m trying to launch a strategic communications program. My goals and expectations were very clear, and I’m driven to succeed, so I will work longer when I need to. But there are other times when my kids come first. And I have that flexibility.”
Trust, communication and flexibility have been essential to Leatherman and Calderón’s success.
“We live in a time where we have to be a lot more flexible. For younger folks, work and play are intermingled,” Calderón says. “So for me, as an employer, I have to adjust to that a little bit if I want those folks working with me.”
Micah turns 1 this summer, and Leatherman isn’t sure how much longer she’ll continue to bring him to the office. For now, though, she and Calderón have an open dialogue. And Leatherman knows working moms often don’t get the opportunity to excel in their careers without missing out on important bonding time with their babies.
“Terri wanted to change that for me,” she says. “I’m very grateful for that.”