pregnant woman working at a laptop, pregnancy featured

Three ways to overcome the fear of feeling left behind when taking maternity leave in fast-moving tech industries

pregnant woman working at a laptop, pregnancy

Sonal Bhadane is a clinical expert in developing and validating radiation therapy machines for cancer treatment at Elekta. She is also a mother to a five-year-old aspiring astronaut/garbage truck driver. However, when she became pregnant, Sonal admits to feeling ‘paranoid’ about how her colleagues would react and how being a mother would impact her career.

Sonal was born in India, but raised and educated in Canada, and has had a lifelong passion for physics. Having studied Medical Radiation Sciences, she become a radiation therapist and started her career at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. Though she enjoyed her job, she wanted to understand and learn more about the technology she was using to treat patients, often staying behind after her shift to watch engineers testing the machines she was using during the day. Before long, she had made the decision to go back university to study for a Masters in Medical Physics.

Sonal says that as a woman studying physics, she frequently found herself to be an anomaly in the classroom and that it was not always an easy journey as there were subtle differences between how she and her male peers were treated and taught. Fortunately, her parents encouraged her to pursue STEMM subjects from an early age as she enjoyed and excelled at them.

Whilst the gender gap in physics remains one of the largest among all STEMM subjects, within medical physics the percentage of women is actually around 40%. Despite this, and even though she was working at the very of top of her subject, when Sonal became pregnant, she was concerned about how it would impact her career.

Sonal works within Validation Process Excellence at Elekta facilitating change and continuous improvement of radiotherapy products at a global level. She ensures the validation testing process follows company procedures and reporting protocols to meet both industry and Elekta’s standards. She had been at Elekta for four years when she became pregnant with her first child.

Having experienced gender bias, both conscious and unconscious, whilst studying STEMM subjects, Sonal was predisposed to believe that perceptions of her abilities, productivity and usefulness would change because of her pregnancy. She was apprehensive that colleagues would treat her differently even if it was done with good intentions.

This initial anxiety was compounded by a longer-term concern that being out of the industry loop would mean she would be unable to keep track of the fast pace of developments and advancements in radiotherapy technology during her maternity leave and how it might impact her career in the future.

However, Sonal found being open about her concerns regarding the challenges of pregnancy and returning to work following maternity leave led to a more positive experience. She felt very supported by colleagues and Elekta HR was very flexible about her plans for coming back to work enabling her to do a staggered return.

She realised that she also had to confront her own mindset of how parenthood was going to affect her job and her work, and the fear that she would not be able to come back and work the way she had previously.

Sonal Bhadane headshot“One year is a huge gap from where you leave off to where the company will be, and I asked myself what can I do to keep myself updated? So, I would try to catch up with my boss once a month to discuss work and see where things were. However, she would keep trying to turn the conversation back to the baby when I wanted to talk about the company.”

Sonal says that she learnt a lot from the dynamic of these interactions, and she now uses her experience to mentor team members when they go on maternity leave.

To facilitate finding a balance between impending motherhood and the workplace she has compiled three top tips for her colleagues which can be applicable to all women in fast-moving tech industries:

  • Take a deep breathe: Things will have moved on while you have been away, but don’t feel that when you come back you must know everything that has happened. There are no stupid questions to ask to get you back up to speed and you may even be querying things that haven’t been previously considered.
  • Try to keep the imposter syndrome at bay: Be confident in your abilities, you’ll be surprised at how easy and quickly it is to bounce back.
  • Remember there is support: Tech companies like Elekta can be very good at understanding what to provide, but if you identify other needs or alternative ways to be supported back into the workplace don’t be afraid to ask

In response to how she felt during her pregnancy and maternity leave, and having realised that many women in STEMM careers may experience the same anxieties, Sonal has also gone on to co-found the non-profit organisation Mother in Science  to “support, connect, empower and increase the visibility of mothers in STEMM.”

WeAreVirtual, Verena Hefti, 800x600

23/06/2022: WeAreVirtual: Return from maternity leave courageously | Verena Hefti

WeAreVirtual, Verena Hefti

Returning to work can be an incredibly difficult transition to make. In this practical session, Verena Hefti FRSA will share how to return from maternity leave courageously. 

In this webinar, Verena will share:


– practical things to prepare as you return from maternity leave
– different options on how to best settle back into work and make the transition easy
– some tips on making sure to make sure you are still able to progress your career with a young baby
– pitfalls to avoid and what I have seen work well from supporting more than 150 parents on their return to work

About Verena:


Verena Hefti is the CEO and Founder of the award winning Social Enterprise Leaders Plus. She set up Leaders Plus in order to support leaders with babies and young children to continue to progress their careers.
She believes that no one should have to choose between becoming a CEO and enjoying their young children. She stands for supporting parents to fulfil ambitious career dreams which she believes is essential to achieving gender equality at the top. Verena is a self confessed career development geek and spends a lot of her spare time reading about the science behind career progression.
She won several awards for her work with Leaders Plus including the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award.
Verena is the podcast host of the popular Leaders with Babies podcast.

ca technologies logo

CA Technologies announce an industry-first new parent leave policy


ca technologies logo

CA Technologies has announced a groundbreaking policy for new parents to promote and extend gender parity across the organisation.

The company will offer all employees globally - male and female - a minimum of 12 weeks paid leave during the first 12 months following the birth or adoption of their child.

As well as supporting female employees following the birth of their child, the new scheme will encourage male as well as female employees to be actively involved in the initial months of caring for their new child.

This industry-first initiative will help CA Technologies to create an even more inclusive culture and position the company as an employer of choice both among existing employees and in attracting new talent.

The policy reflects CA Technologies commitment to encouraging and promoting this gender parity for both women and men, while recognising the historically disadvantaged position of women in the workplace. It is also part of a wider, multi award-winning talent management strategy to ensure the people working at CA Technologies have the skills needed for the future of work. These steps include leadership learning and development, unconscious bias training opportunities, flexible working and other initiatives to support family responsibilities, employee consultation, and targets for improving gender equality outcomes.

The new parental leave policy has already been launched by CA Technologies in the US and will now be rolled out worldwide. Employees will receive a minimum of 12 weeks paid leave during the first 12 months following the birth or adoption of their child.

Employees will be eligible for new parent leave if they have 12 months service at the date the child is born, or for adoptive parents where a child is matched or newly placed with them. Employees can choose to take a shorter period of leave if they choose, and salaries and benefits will continue to be paid in the normal way.

Speaking about the new initiative, Gail Wilkinson, SVP People, CA Technologies said, "“The new Parent Leave Policy is a key part of our commitment to building a culture of parity within our business and industry, so I’m delighted that we’re able to roll it out to our employees globally."

"By supporting all genders as they expand their families, we hope to drive an even greater level of inclusion across our global business, while offering a more rewarding and sustainable employee experience.”