5 minute read

Pregnant, then screwed?

Maternity, Paternity and Pregnancy in Tech. Here’s What You Missed At Our Pregnant then Screwed Meetup with Hubs

The wind and rain didn’t stop a full house from making it to Xena’s first meetup of 2022 in partnership with Hubs in Amsterdam. Rescheduled from 2021, ‘Pregnant, then screwed?’ took on its very own title as a challenge, covering the reality of being a mother working in technology.

Our stellar panel came armed with actionable advice. We introduced to the stage Hester Van Gool, Head of Product Marketing at PayPal, Yuhan Yang, Director of Analytics at RNHB, Alex Cappy, CEO at Hubs (and honorary pregnant panelist), and our very own Alex Walsh, Founder at Xena. 

Didn’t make it on the night? Don’t worry we made notes and now present to you the highlights of an inspiring evening. 


Alex Walsh kicked things off with the first topic: challenges. She discussed the common feeling of being the odd one out as a woman in the tech industry. Add pregnancy into the mix and that feeling is amplified tenfold. Even a supportive working environment, as Alex Cappy experienced whilst pregnant at Hubs, is not without its challenges.

“I go into meetings ready to tell someone I’m pregnant, not dead. I’m pregnant, not stupid,” 

As well as the emotional implications, the discussion turned to the specific challenges of maternity leave in the tech industry. Going on maternity leave at the forefront of your game and returning to find your team working with new technologies, a scaled business and a feeling of being left behind is a sadly common story that companies must do better to handle.

Returning to work

So you’ve made it through pregnancy, childbirth, and the sleep-deprived newborn stage. Now you have to tackle the return to work. Breastmilk in the office fridge, juggling meetings with pumping, and jealousy when people take over your projects, are just some of the experiences of our panellists. 

It’s a case of adjusting expectations, says Yuhan Yang. “Let’s be realistic, right? You have a new kid, you’re a new mother, and you need to take it easy for this period of time. It’s wise and sustainable for both you and your employer to understand this.”

The main takeaway? You don’t always know beforehand what you are going to want or how you’re going to feel. And that is okay. Make sure you have room to be flexible with your decisions and allow for change. And a bit of advice from Hester Van Gool.

“Take the leave that you want and add longer leave to it. If you’re out you’re out, but once you’re back people will have expectations of you.” 

Career progression

Now you might be under the impression that having a baby puts a halt on your plans for career progression. Well, think again. 

Hester Van Gool busts that myth wide open, securing not one but two promotions both during and after her maternity leave. Whether you choose to stick to your comfort zone or try out something new is entirely personal. However, you shouldn’t feel stuck simply because you are now a mother. 

Yuhan Yang also made a career move three months after her maternity leave, this time into a new company. “It’s really nice to see that your baby is growing and learning new things. You also want that possibility for yourself right? I want to be as curious as this little child, I want to grow as fast as her. So actually, my experience with my child also inspires me.”

Expectations of women

This segment starts with a slide from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in 2015 announcing “she would be taking limited time away and working throughout her pregnancy.” Our panellists discussed the impact of this statement on women. And the bias goes both ways. 

Alex Cappy explains the expectation this kind of unhelpful statement creates for women, that if you care about your job you should minimise your time away. “If this is what she wants to do for her maternity leave, that is also completely fine. You know, you do you. People have different priorities, different schedules. My leave won’t be exactly by the book, but it will work for me.”

Then you also have the other side to contend with and what Hester van Gool refers to as the ‘moeder mafia’ or ‘mob of mothers’.

“There’s also a lot of women that would say, I want to be a good mother so I can’t work five days a week. That to me is triggering because I also have the intention to be a good mother, but I make a different choice. Everything in pregnancy is so personal.”

Career VS fertility health

Navigating fertility, cultural differences and the false notion that there is a right time to have a baby were all up for discussion in this segment. The conclusion? When it comes to career VS fertility health we simply need to be talking about it. 

Some great books recommended by our panellists include Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster and Everything Egg Freezing: The Essential Step-by-step Guide to Doing it Right by Catherine Hendy and Brittany Hawkins. We’ll be adding these to our Amazon wishlists.

Paternity Discrimination

To round things off, our discussion turned to the other party when it comes to making a baby: the partners and the discrimination they in turn face. 

As women, it is important to check even our own biases when it comes to paternity. Alex Walsh candidly recounts her own experiences as a business owner and expat in the Netherlands and being surprised when her male employee took a day’s parental leave, something she now firmly celebrates. 

However, despite Dutch companies encouraging male employees to take their papadag (aka ‘daddy day’), there is still a way to go to dispel gender norms when it comes to parenthood. As Alex Cappy notes, “if anything, we applaud men as heroes for doing even close to what women do.”

And that brings us to the end of the panel and our first event of 2022. If you missed this one, make sure to catch us next time. 

About our partner

Hubs is an online manufacturing platform that offers businesses on-demand access to a global network of manufacturing partners. Their platform offers a range of manufacturing services, including 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding and sheet metal fabrication services. 

What started out as the world’s largest peer-to-peer network of 3D printing services, has evolved into a global platform including hundreds of manufacturers in their network, allowing customers to order parts in a broad range of materials using multiple manufacturing technologies. 

Hubs are a truly diverse, international team of dedicated young people working on disrupting the traditional way of manufacturing and leading the next industrial revolution. At Hubs, they believe in maximising the individual’s potential for all employees and reinforce a diverse and inclusive environment of continuous learning. In addition to their belief that they are all pragmatic makers, above all, they value honestly and support each other to do their best work possible, by being their most humble selves. 

Read more about Hubs here.

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