Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The importance of supporting women returning to the workplace

By Kristin Ekerold, Head of Product and Sales Specialists, Europe, at Amazon Ads

Since starting at Amazon almost eight years ago, I’ve left the workforce twice to have children, both
times being fortunate to take a full year out. As well as learning a lot about motherhood and balancing
family life with additional commitments including my career and other passions, I’ve also had first-
hand experience of coming back into work after maternity leave and the opportunities and challenges
this comes with.

Change happens
Firstly, it’s important to realise how quickly the tech landscape develops and how much can change
within a company and the broader industry across a year. We have to recognise it is unrealistic to
expect anyone to pick straight back up where they left off when they’ve had an extended time off.
Similarly, new parents and those coming back to work after a big life change also have new priorities
and commitments and are likely coming back as a new person in a lot of ways too. Adjustments
should be made to reflect these changes, both personally and professionally, and ensuring your
business has a culture where these priorities and preferences can be voiced and met with flexibility is
incredibly important.

A piece of advice given to me, which I have used when supporting returning employees to my team,
is to take inspiration from the onboarding resources for new starters, and use these tools to help
employees as they come back. It’s likely that that a wide range of new processes, acronyms, tools
and even new colleagues have been introduced across the business while the employee has been
away. Setting returners up for success by giving them access to resources, such as policies like a
phased return to work, and flexibility in managing childcare and work commitments, to help navigate
these changes will help them feel supported and ease them back into work. This is critical, especially
during the first few, often overwhelming, weeks and months.

Honesty and transparency are key
During my last maternity leave, the focus of my role and team had changed by the time I re-
entered the world of work, so managing my expectations of how quickly I “should” jump straight back
in and being patient with myself was incredibly important. Thankfully, Amazon has a very inclusive
culture where being curious and asking questions is welcomed and people are comfortable
expressing any concerns or obstacles they face. I had to find a way to navigate this as well as having
two young children at home, and for me, what helped was blocking time for training, while setting
myself some small (and achievable) goals in those first few months and also being honest and asking
questions when things were unclear. I work with many other women coming back to work, both in and
outside of my team and I try and share learnings that I have found helpful, while also reminding them
to take the time that they need and be kind to themselves as you navigate their career and

A big factor is cultivating relationships with the people you work with and your team. It helps foster a
mutual sense of honesty, trust and transparency. Keeping the lines of communication open between
managers, direct reports and across the wider team helps immensely with the often tricky and
sometimes emotional transition back into work. I know first-hand how impactful and empowering it is
to have an understanding manager, and I try to emulate this in my management style here at Amazon