What the Pregnant CEO on the Cover of Inc. Says to the Business World…and Why It’s Only Step One

Pregnant CEO working on her laptop

See the latest issue of Inc. Magazine? The cover’s something you’ve never seen on a major business pub before: a photo of a CEO…with a visible baby bump. 

Quartz called it, “The glass-shattering power of seeing pregnant women in the workplace.”

Huffington Post used a slightly more colorful term.

Everyone agrees it’s a message. But it could be even more. 

Tomorrow’s Women Leaders Start with Today’s

People too often doubt the ability of women to persevere after pregnancy. The Today show quoted our own Modern Family Index (MFI) showing that 41% of Americans believe pregnant woman are less dedicated to their jobs. Women know better. But without clear images of those who’ve succeeded, they start doubting themselves, too. 

“It’s so important,” Audrey Gelman, the CEO and mother-to-be in question, told Today, “to have new images of women who are thriving and working professionally while balancing motherhood.” 

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” 

What Women Mean to the Labor Force

Yet the milestone moment isn’t just a message for women; there are some cautionary nuggets for employers, too. 

Another notable fact from our MFI data showed that if women can’t see the possibilities – don’t see pipelines filled with successful working parents who came before -- many will see new motherhood as a time to switch jobs. As Today pointed out, 70% of the 75 million women in the labor force have children under age 18. That’s a lot of employees to risk in record-low unemployment.

As for new mothers being less dedicated? Hogwash. Their mastery of multitasking has been well documented, with one recruiter telling our Work-Life Equation podcast that “When we send them to businesses, I often get the comment, ‘Oh, a working mom? I’ll take her.’ Because they know they’re going to get a bang for their buck.”

One Milestone Down…Looking Toward the Next

Here’s one last thing to remember. The Inc. cover is merely the realization of something that’s been around us forever: women successfully raising companies and families. Our founder was a pregnant business leader. So were many other women here and at other companies. Pretending business leaders haven’t been having babies all this time rings a little like Lucy and Ricky sleeping in separate TV beds.

And if there’s one gripe, it’s that the image was sequestered on the cover of the women-centric, Female Founders 100 issue – as if a woman’s accomplishments are only relevant among other women. Why does a business leader who has a baby only rate on a Very Special issue?

So, a pregnant CEO on the cover of the Inc. “Female Founders 100” is awesome (congrats, Ms. Gelman!). But the female-centric cover story left us wanting more. The next milestone will be a major business magazine, with a regular issue, featuring an awesome business leader like Ms. Gelman…who just happens to be a woman…and just happens to be pregnant.

A group of business women leading a meeting together.

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Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

October 15, 2019

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.