Navigating Maternity Leave for the Third Time

At Goldman Sachs, we are committed to delivering best-in-class benefits and wellness programs to better meet the needs of our people, including those who are starting, growing and supporting a family.

Last year the firm implemented several enhancements to our parenting leave policy, including offering the same paid parenting leave time regardless of gender or caregiver status. Most recently, the firm announced 10 days of COVID-19 family leave to our people globally to care for family members. Ultimately, our offerings are designed to enable everyone in our workforce to better manage the commitment to their families and career goals.

Padideh (Raphael) Trojanow, a partner in our Global Markets Division in Hong Kong, shares her parenting leave journey and how the firm supported her along the way.

Maternity Leave 3.0

by Padideh (Raphael) Trojanow 

Together with my family, I am delighted to announce the safe arrival of baby #3, and as we saddle up for this wild ride again eight years on from #2, I wanted to share a few thoughts with my esteemed network of friends, colleagues and clients.

Over the course of a fulfilling 21-year career at Goldman Sachs thus far, I will have had three stints on maternity leave (henceforth “ML”) totaling about 20 months. However I still too often hear doubts voiced - many times directly but also sometimes under people’s breath - about whether a serious banking career and committed motherhood, or any other significant personal life priorities, are congruent and manageable. Prospective mothers in particular worry about ‘taking time out’ for ML and whether it’s a career derailer.

I can say with the certainty of having done it, that it doesn’t have to be – and in actual fact I’ve experienced some of my most significant and gratifying professional growth periods just after returning from prior MLs...including career-transforming client assignments and a life-altering geographical assignment, thanks to phenomenal sponsorship (which is a worthy topic in and of itself, for another time). However, of course the myriad demands on working parents’ time, energy and brainpower aren’t remotely reasonable conditions under which one can expect to achieve ‘balance’, and frankly any given day can be overwhelming either on the home front or in the office - and very often both; but when looked at through a long term lens over two decades, it’s all been very well worth fighting for. Below, I wanted to take a minute to share my views on some of the arbiters of a successful ML. 

Organizational Policy – First and foremost, top down messaging sets the tone for the entire firm.  Over the past two decades, I've experienced first hand Goldman Sachs' consistent prioritisation of and support for the holistic well-being of its people -- 11 years ago during my first ML, the firm undertook and fulfilled my fairly major request to open a full-time, onsite daycare center in our then London office at RiverCourt. My eldest daughter was the first ever ‘client’ followed a few years later by my son, and the facility thrives today in both London and also Tokyo.

Over the past two years, the intents and actions of our firm and leadership have only become more visible and deliberate, and I’d strongly attest that our diversity and inclusion strategy is a high priority commercial imperative for the firm. I’d highlight here the proactive and costly revamp of Goldman Sachs' parental leave policy last year, in which we not only extended the minimum duration of leave offered around the globe to five months, but also crucially expanded the benefit to include BOTH parents. Why is this so important? Because while in reality ML is not dilutive to a long-term career, it’s still a perception held by many that it is a detractor, which to date has asymmetrically been women’s cross to bear. I strongly believe that normalizing this lifecycle event for all genders is the key to destigmatizing it for just women. I’m exceptionally proud of the few intrepid new dads in my team who have so far exercised their paternity leave benefits, and laud them not only for prioritizing their families’ needs, but also for being champions of gender equality to the rest of the organization.

Network Support – “It takes a village” and there is much to be said here. In my career, nothing would be possible without the individual acts of sponsorship and support from the people around me, and the power of the collective network effect. My husband, family, friends, bosses, partners, mentors, team, fellow lift me up!
I can cite many examples – from stretch assignments offered immediately upon my return from ML, to flexibility negotiated around daily working schedules (and nightly calls!), to the increasingly broader platform and empowerment I’ve been given to drive business outcomes, challenge the status quo and share triumphs, and frankly most of all the enduring friendships and partnerships developed in the course of my working life.

Over many years that I’ve guided other women going on ML, one of my key pieces of advice is to take every bit of help offered and afforded to you, from whatever source you can get it - family, friends, colleagues, professionals, staff. We need other humans, and in generations past families and communities lived in closer service of each other...but somehow now we too easily fall into a trap of thinking that we should be able to or have to do it on our own, and that we’ve failed when we obviously can’t manage it that way. The inherent vulnerability of asking for and accepting support can feel uncomfortable, but I've learned that most people like helping other people and for many the act of giving confers a higher sense of self worth. So go on and ask for the help you need, you might just get it - which brings me to my next point.

Transparent Communication – I grew up in California, my family is from the Middle East, and my mother is a psychologist. To put it mildly, I’ve been bred to be a direct communicator. I like feedback and people tend to know where I stand on things in fairly real-time. I don’t carry high expectations of others’ ability to read my mind or anticipate my needs, and don’t like to leave much room for guessing. At no times in my career has this been a more important tenet than during/post ML.

Early motherhood - particularly for the first time, but actually each time brings its own challenges - is a period fraught with anxiety for all parents, and depression for many women.  And being out of the office for a long stretch of time can exacerbate this feeling around one’s career... the F.O.M.O. of how your business and clients are getting on without you is intensely real, and I’ve heard many a male unwittingly exclaim that they couldn’t possibly take all their vacation days for this same reason!

So what to do? Do you stay in touch on ML, while trying to get to grips with the ceaseless unreasonable demands of a newborn? And when ML is over and you get back to the office, how do you make both full-time jobs work? Over the years, I have offered my personal advice on what has worked for me to many women going on ML - and now even to some men too!  The bottom line is that together with my managers, I have iterated, experimented and overcommunicated to identify sustainable strategies that would work for all parties. To share one concrete piece of advice that I employed during prior MLs - I asked colleagues to continue to cc me on relevant emails as they ordinarily would (reading and purging the inbox was a good way to pass the time during endless feeds!), however not to expect any reply from me as I couldn't be held to my usual standard of timely responses. However I did designate just 1-2 people internally to whom I would reach out if I felt anything needed escalation or attention.This ML ahead will surely present new challenges for me - I’m in a different stage of life and I’ll need to work out new strategies. What I know for sure is that it will require compromise, as is anything worth having... and for me it has been so worth it to have the opportunity to lead this expansive & multi-faceted life.

Paying it Back – this is increasingly among the most gratifying parts of my job and life, whether through my role as a parent, manager, mentor, sponsor, committee member, advocate, etc. Only when I became a mother for the first time 11 years ago, did it properly occur to me that there is yet more to be done in leveling the career playing field for women. Before that watershed moment, I hadn’t much considered how my gender may play a role in my career. But that quickly changed as I began to juggle the demands of motherhood and a senior role on the GS Equities trading floor, and as I took inventory of the challenges facing working moms, I realized that I owned a greater sense of responsibility as an agent of change, not only for myself but also on behalf of others around me and those who would come after me. I’m grateful to have a phenomenal platform at Goldman Sachs and a voice to help our firm and industry continue to make necessary strides towards more equality for women and for other diverse populations, and I’ll continue to pound the lectern on this topic until we’re there. 

I'm signing off for now, but I'll be back in a few months' time, and look forward to continuing our work together.

- Padi