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Written by Guest Blogger Stephanie Byrd, Director of State Affairs
My first child was born during a warm spell in the winter of 2016. I had been working at Schneider Electric full-time and I spent the next 12 weeks using a combination of vacation days, short-term disability, and FMLA to stop working and start my crash course in motherhood.
Fast forward a year and a half later to the summer of 2017. I had been back to work full-time for several months, my baby now grown into an adorable toddler. At this time, Schneider Electric made a major announcement.
On June 2017, the company launched a best-in-class global family leave policy that provides 12 weeks of fully paid leave for new parents (12 weeks for the primary parent and 2 weeks for the secondary parent) for both natural birth and adoption. It’s a clear testament to Schneider’s unique core values of diversity and inclusion . I knew that most of my other working friends did not have this luxury at their companies. I admired Schneider Electric for truly stepping up to the plate—not just talking about Diversity and Inclusion, but writing it into policy and practice.
Little did I know, I would soon test out the new family leave policy with my second child…
Working with a Belly
My work usually takes place while either sitting at a desk or flying across the country; fortunately, you can do both with a big belly! I am the Director of State Affairs for the U.S. which means I work with lawmakers and government officials to craft forward-looking energy policies. The work involves lots of discussions with a variety of industry stakeholders and requires continuously staying abreast of the latest news and technologies.
At the Schneider office, I could walk around during phone calls and make frequent trips to the kitchenette and well-stocked vending machines for more and more food. I even used the treadmill in the gym (especially in the last month hoping to walk the baby out!).
My job also requires air travel and although being pregnant often slowed me down, it didn’t stop me. I recall having to pass on a few cocktail hours and a competitive game of bowling, but overall felt proud of doing my job while also growing a human being. When I couldn’t fly anymore due to airline rules, Schneider was okay with it. When I had doctor appointments that cut into work hours, Schneider was okay with it. I am thankful to work for a company that provides this type of job flexibility and I felt very supported throughout the journey.
Taking My Leave
My son was born on a Saturday (8lbs!) and on Sunday I texted my manager a happy note and later sent out an email to my colleagues. I really appreciated the warm wishes they sent back.
The entire maternity leave process was very simple and easy to manage. I worked with our family leave administrators while in the hospital to ensure all the paperwork was in order for 12 weeks of paid leave. I am also thankful to Schneider Electric’s new policy for offering 2 weeks of fully paid secondary parental leave. My husband, a fellow Schneider employee, took advantage of the two-week secondary parent paid family leave, which was a huge help during our first weeks home. That time was a blur of baby care and Netflix marathons, and thankfully Schneider respected our time off!
Back to Work
After 12 weeks I returned to work around the time of my ten-year anniversary with Schneider Electric. It is easy to spend ten years with a company that invests so much in employee engagement and high performance (see us as one of Forbes America’s Best Large Employers and certified as a Great Place to Work!). It is also easy to transition back to work when there is a supportive culture, a nursing mothers’ room, and a complimentary mail service for shipping breast milk home when traveling.
I’m grateful for the new family leave policy that helps keep our Schneider Electric motto “Life is On” true for new parents. I hope we inspire other companies to make diversity and inclusion an integral part of their business.
About the Author:
Stephanie Byrd is passionate about energy and its role in reshaping industries, transforming cities, and enriching lives. She recently celebrated ten years with Schneider Electric, currently serving as the Director of State Affairs. In this role she acts as a liaison to lawmakers, regulators, and industry associations, paving a path for the new energy landscape. Outside of Schneider, Stephanie likes to cook, practice yoga, and travel with her family.
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