How should one handle maternity leave on a resume?

Should you explain a gap in your work history if it involves a maternity leave? Blogger Toni Bowers offers advice to a TechRepublic member who is in this situation.

When I was expecting my son years ago, I worked for a smallish company that was in a growth period. I was very psychologically invested in the success of this company. During my maternity leave, a management position opened up (and was filled) without anyone letting me know. When I asked the guy who was over personnel at the time why I hadn't been told because I would have come back early to interview for the position, he replied, "If you suggested that, I would have told you your place was with your baby."

It was the first, brutal indication I had that some people drew a distinct line between gender roles at work when a maternity issue enters the picture. I was reminded of that conversation when I got an email this morning from a TechRepublic member who wonders whether she should include a reason for work history gap in her resume if that reason is having a baby. She wrote:

I understand it is illegal for potential employers to ask questions on my personal life, but at the same time, as a potential employee you should not leave career gaps in the CV.

If one took only few months off (of the 12 officially entitled to) and kept in touch, should that be brought up in the interview with potential employers? Or is that one's own choice and hence business?

Anyhow, I was wondering if you have any feedback from employers if they want to know of things like this and how that would influence their decisions.

I am a software architect working in a global company and will be taking 3 months maternity leave starting January 2010. As I always update my CV at the end of the year the question came to mind and I was just wondering how would one approach this.

The question comes down to which would be more detrimental: an unexplained gap in your work history or information that would let a prospective employer know that you have an infant at home. It's a shame that we even have to contemplate this, but it is what it is.

Sometimes it's the timing. I'll be honest, some people looking at your resume and seeing a recent maternity leave will make the assumption that, while coping through colic and midnight feedings, you may not be able to give your best at work. (Funny that they don't think the same thing about a man whose wife just had a baby.) But the bright side is, you probably won't be going on another maternity leave soon after the company hires you.

If the leave happened months before you apply for another job, then a prospective employer may not give it much thought at all.

You mention that you will be taking a maternity leave in January. If you plan to be employed by the same company when you do that, there really shouldn't be an "unexplained" gap. Even on maternity leave, you're still an employee. Just list your end date of employment as "...until present."

If your situation is otherwise, I would probably leave the gap unexplained on the resume. Chances are it won't be noticed. If it is, you can explain in the interview and hope for (and look for) the best.

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