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Shyamantha Asokan speaks to Shakira Talbot about her experience of being promoted twice after different maternity leaves at ServiceNow, which won this year’s Best for Diversity and Inclusion Award at the WM People Top Employer Awards.
When Shakira Talbot was on maternity leave with her first child in 2018-19, she was not forgotten or overlooked by her employer, the software company ServiceNow. Instead, she was promoted during her maternity leave and was well supported as she returned to work in a more senior role.
Talbot was allowed to complete her maternity leave before starting her new role, and she was also allowed to return to work three days a week initially while she settled back in. Her employer was similarly supportive during her second pregnancy and maternity leave, during which time she was promoted again. This approach has been central to the company retaining talented staff and won it this year’s Best for Diversity and Inclusion Award at the WM People Top Employer Awards.
“People ask me: ‘Why have you stayed at ServiceNow for nine and a half years?’ ” says Talbot, who has risen from a sales rep to a senior sales director, which involves running four teams.
“[It’s because I can] be my authentic self, and feel valued as a parent, valued as a leader, in a business where my opinion matters. I firmly believe that for the teams I now run – people do their best work when they feel at their best.”
Talbot has also found ServiceNow to be flexible when it comes to the juggles of a working parent. When she had to undergo three rounds of IVF before her second pregnancy, her team moved her meetings around to accommodate her scans and appointments. When she has to take time off or work from home because her children are unwell, her colleagues understand that such things are simply a part of life.
“I was naturally worried, but…if I was off sick or if I needed to work from home because I’d had a really rough night [with my children], I never felt pressured, like some of my friends felt pressured at work,” she says of her first return to work. “It was a really supportive leadership team.”
ServiceNow has boosted its parental leave policies in recent years. The company now offers 20 weeks of fully paid leave for mothers and eight weeks for fathers or partners. This policy was formulated after asking staff to share their ideas and experiences – and this approach is something that Talbot really values.
“It wasn’t just a policy made in isolation – they actually gathered feedback from people who’ve lived it at ServiceNow,” she says.
Talbot participates in many of ServiceNow’s employee groups. Some of these groups, such as Woman at ServiceNow and Black at ServiceNow, apply to her own identity and heritage. However she also participates in some employee groups as an ally, such as Pride at ServiceNow. She says this has helped her, as a manager, to understand her team members and to plan activities that include everyone.
“When we are all allies for each other, and we have an appreciation for different D&I groups, I think it’s really important,” she says.
*For information on all the winners at the Top Employer Awards and, crucially, what they do and what impact this has in the WM People Top Employer Awards, look out for our Best Practice Report, coming later this month.