Individuals may keep quiet about treatments because they fear negative effects on their advancement opportunities. SDI Productions/Getty Images

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Question: I recently accepted an unexpected new job opportunity. However, my partner and I are on a fertility journey that requires a lot of time for treatments and tests. As I start my new job, should I tell my employer in order to get the time off I need?

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We asked Dr. Nada Basir, assistant professor of strategic management at the Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre, University of Waterloo, to tackle this one. Dr. Basir and Dr. Serena Sohrab of the Bayes Business School in London, U.K., have conducted research with professional women who had recently gone through fertility treatments while working full time.

This is a question that came up in all of the interviews and discussions that we’ve had with women navigating fertility treatments and work: ‘Do I tell my boss, my manager, my team? What do I tell them, and when do I tell them?’ Some women avoid sharing anything with their employer because they feel it’s a very private matter. But often it’s about what we call the organizational climate – they don’t perceive that their managers or companies are going to be supportive and empathetic so they avoid sharing anything. Some are afraid that it might have consequences on their advancement opportunities. And that can be a reality, unfortunately.

However, we found that with time, especially as they go through cycles of treatment, most women feel a need to disclose because they need the support. They need their employer to know so that they can create the space to get these treatments done. And almost everyone we talked to who eventually shared said that it had a positive impact.

In many cases, the added stress, the feelings of guilt and the pressure of hiding were so much worse than when they disclosed and said, ‘This is what I’m dealing with.’ Many women said there was a sense of relief once they were able to share that. There were situations where people felt like they didn’t get the support they needed. But for the most part, they did, and telling their employers was a good thing.

In your particular situation, because it’s a new job and you probably don’t have a good feel for the climate of support, you may want to limit the information that you share at the beginning and keep it to what is relevant to doing your job. Sharing about treatment isn’t a binary decision; you can decide how much to share and when. Many of the women we talked to would start off by saying, ‘I’m being treated for a medical condition,’ sharing just enough information so that they could get what they needed, usually flexibility for appointments. With time, you can start to share more.

When disclosing, you should reiterate your commitment to your work and career, and put forward the ways that you’re going to balance your treatment and work commitments.

Go into the conversation knowing, ‘What do I need from my employer?’ For some women, it’s about emotional support, for others it’s about flexibility. It’s also important to ask yourself, ‘How much do I want people involved in this?’ Some women don’t want to be asked about how treatment is going. Teammates might say the wrong thing, or people can give unsolicited advice. So you have some homework to do before the conversation happens.

If after disclosing you don’t feel supported, you should check in with HR and understand what policies are in place for something like this. More and more companies have policies around fertility treatments, but the manager may not know about or understand these policies.

And if you’re starting a new job and you’re not getting the support you need, that might be a hint that maybe this isn’t the right place for you to be.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

This week’s must-read stories on women and work
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That assessment from Bonnie Hammer, vice-chair of NBCUniversal, who also happened to mentor Meghan Markle in her Toronto acting days, runs counter to the widespread belief that the ideal mentors are gentle, supportive souls. Yes, many mentors are kind and can be helpful. But the mentors we are likely to remember stand out for being challenging rather than supportive.

“Good mentors are like cheerleaders. Great mentors are like coaches. But the best mentors, the ones who change our lives (or at least our career trajectories) are like drill sergeants. The first two can help us win a game. But it’s the challenging mentors – the drill sergeants we encounter – who prepare us for battle and help us to win the war,” she writes in her new book, 15 Lies Women Are Told at Work … And the Truth We Need to Succeed.

Read why sharing “hard-to-hear truths” is essential in mentorship.

Employers discriminate against non-binary candidates who identify pronouns, paper finds

Non-binary job applicants are less likely to receive interest from employers if they disclose gender-neutral pronouns on their resume, according to a recent working paper.

The findings by University of Toronto economics PhD candidate Taryn Eames came after her team submitted nearly 8,000 resumes in pairs to job postings in 15 occupations across six U.S. cities. Half of these resumes listed an applicant’s pronouns, including the gender-neutral ‘they/them,’ while the others did not. These pairs had the same education levels and years of work experience.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of resumes which did not disclose pronouns received a response from employers, according to the paper. By contrast, applicants with ‘they/them’ pronouns had a response rate of 25 per cent, something Ms. Eames referred to in the paper as “strong evidence of discrimination against applicants who disclose nonbinary ‘they/them’ pronouns.”

Read why unconscious bias training is often not enough to prevent discrimination against non-binary candidates.

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“When Pizza Pizza decided in 2021 to form a diversity and inclusion council, one of the first things we did was send out a survey designed to give us a foundational snapshot of our work force,” says Amy Silverstein, senior director of People for Pizza Pizza Ltd.

“The results told us about 60 per cent of corporate employees who participated were from racialized groups and more than 40 per cent were women. Almost 80 per cent said they viewed Pizza Pizza as a diverse organization.

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We’ve all experienced it: You’re relaxing after work when you hear your phone chirp or your e-mail chime. A message comes in from a colleague requesting a document immediately.

You instantly feel dread and anxiety.

From weekend messages to multiple pressing projects to unrealistic deadlines, urgency culture is a phenomenon that many in the workplace experience. In her 2022 article for IONS (Impact Organizations of Nova Scotia), writer and researcher Lydia Phillip describes urgency culture as “the ‘less conscious hustle culture’ – a state of urgency applied to our day-to-day … We’re constantly in motion, always feeling behind and in a state of overwhelm.”

Mary Ann Baynton, principal and CEO of Mary Ann Baynton & Associates Corp., works with businesses and governments on psychological health and safety and workplace mental health. She says that in 2004, after dealing with urgency culture and running ragged for decades, she burned out.

“That was enough for me to question, ‘Why the hurry?’ What was so urgent? Why was I unable to put life into perspective?” she says.

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