What Really Happens when a Woman Takes Maternity Leave at a Tech Company with Unlimited Leave


[Disclosure: Bellyitch is an Affiliate to Amazon.com.]

You guys (including us) who have been fawning over all these tech companies’ generous parental and maternity leave policies should sit up and read Julie Cheiffetz story about how she was treated when she had cancer and a baby while working at Amazon.

The Executive Editor at Harper Collins wrote about her experience in a recent post on Medium.

In “I Had a Baby and Cancer When I Worked at Amazon. This Is My Story,” Cheiffetz explains what many fear about all these hyped up extended year-long liberal leave policies in the press these days: that people who take them cannot be guarantee they won’t be dinged by taking time off.

Here is the most excerpt to Cheiffetz’ story:

After a five-month leave, I was nervous and excited to return to work, and I showed up that first day back with a big smile and a phone full of baby pictures to share. I figured I’d catch up with folks and get a high-level update on how the business was doing, since the strategy had evolved from the time I was hired. Here’s what happened instead: I was taken to lunch by a woman I barely knew. Over Cobb salad she calmly explained that all but one of my direct reports — the people I had hired — were now reporting to her. In the months that followed, I was placed on a dubious performance improvement plan, or PIP, a signal at Amazon that your employment is at risk. Not long after that I resigned.

The truth is, I’ve moved on. I’m healthy. I have a great job doing work I love. There’s no question Amazon is an incredible company. I met some of the strongest, most brilliant women of my career there. Unfortunately, many of those women have left. And the voices commenting on the New York Timespiece so far have been predominantly male leaders of male-dominated teams.

Jeff: You asked for direct feedback. Women power your retail engine. They buy diapers. They buy books. They buy socks for their husbands on Prime. On behalf of all the people who want to speak up but can’t: Please, make Amazon a more hospitable place for women and parents. Reevaluate your parental leave policies. You can’t claim to be a data-driven company and not release more specific numbers on how many women and people of color apply, get hired and promoted, and stay on as employees. In the absence of meaningful public data — especially retention data — all we have are stories.This is mine. 

And alas, the struggle for moms in the corporate culture continue.

We are all very happy to hear that this woman triumphed over cancer and is in a better place now, but yeah, don’t tell us everything will be rosy and not think we won’t speak up when things don’t go according to plan.

Kudos to Cheiffetz!

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