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This first-time mom landed her dream C-suite job while pregnant—and almost said no. What changed her mind

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When Nada Noaman landed her dream C-suite job at The Estée Lauder Cos. just hours after finding out she was pregnant, she felt unbridled joy — and panic. 

“It was two dreams of mine that I never expected to converge during the same year, much less the same 24-hour window,” she recalls of April 28, 2022, the day she received her job offer. “I was shocked … and I immediately knew that it was not going to work.”

Noaman, then 44, had undergone multiple rounds of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, with no luck. When a headhunter reached out to her about interviewing for an open role as Estée Lauder’s new chief information security officer, she says she didn’t think twice about the timing or that the job, based in New York, would require a lot of travel from her home in Los Angeles.

“I accepted that it would be much harder at my age to get pregnant, that it might not be in the cards for me,” Noaman, now 46, adds.

Until she saw two faint blue lines appear on an at-home pregnancy test she took late one night. 

Accepting her dream job offer while newly pregnant

One of the first people Noaman told she was pregnant — besides her doctors and husband — was her potential new boss, Michael Smith, Estèe Lauder’s chief information officer. 

“I told him I was scared, that I had doubts about my ability to do this, but that I really wanted this job, and had I not just gotten this news, it would be a resounding yes,” Noaman, who is also a senior vice president at Estée Lauder, says. “I knew telling him would be a risk but I chose to do that in favor of having some transparency, building trust between us, and with the hope that he could help me navigate this hard decision.” 

Noaman’s fears weren’t unfounded. Although there are laws protecting pregnant people from discrimination in the hiring process and at work, including the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which went into effect last June, pregnancy discrimination is still common in workplaces across the U.S.

Twenty percent of mothers reported experiencing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, a Morning Consult survey of 2,200 adults found in 2022.

Smith, Noaman’s would-be boss, reassured her that she could do both — work as CISO and take maternity leave whenever she needed it, even if that was during her first year on the job. 

“I could tell that he believed in me, and he had the confidence that I could not only do the job well, but I could do it pregnant and was willing to adjust the timeline and expectations of the role as needed,” Noaman recalls. She took the job, and started at Estèe Lauder on June 1.

Starting in the C-suite pregnant and returning as a new mom

Noaman, who worked remotely during the last trimester of her pregnancy, decided not to tell most of her co-workers she was pregnant until she got close to her due date. 

“I wanted people to build a rapport with me and know that I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon so that by the time I did go on maternity leave, we had a plan and it felt as seamless as possible,” she says. 

Noaman did, however, alert her executive assistant and human resources manager, who, along with Smith, helped Noaman adjust her travel schedule and set up a remote office from her home in Los Angeles.

Nada Noaman at a baby shower her co-workers threw for her right before she went on maternity leave in December 2022.

Photo: The Estée Lauder Companies

She left for maternity leave in December 2022 and took about six months off, returning to work in the summer of 2023 (Noaman declined to share the date she gave birth). Estée Lauder offers full-time corporate employees in the U.S. up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave at their normal pay. 

To prepare for maternity leave during her first year in the C-suite, Noaman set up what she calls a “self-governance committee” of business leaders within her department to make decisions and lead team meetings on her behalf. She coordinated with Smith to delegate some of her higher-level duties, like leading meetings or dealing with tech emergencies. 

“I joined a couple of important meetings with our senior leadership while I was gone but other than that, I was off enjoying time with my husband and our daughter,” says Noaman. “Having a solid support system at work and having a clear game plan months ahead of time made all the difference.”

Noaman’s best advice for job hunting while expecting a baby

Even though Noaman told a potential employer that she was pregnant, she doesn’t recommend other pregnant people on the job hunt do the same. 

“I’m not practicing what I preach, but I would say, don’t do what I did because it’s your journey, and shouldn’t impact your professional growth,” says Noaman. “You don’t owe it to anyone to tell them if you’re newly pregnant, and ultimately, you want a company that’s going to support you through and through, not make a snap first impression based on that information.” 

Instead, Noaman recommends looking for clear signs that an organization supports pregnant employees before committing to a job, whether it’s reading up on their parental leave policies, asking about flexible work options or having a one-on-one conversation with a working parent at the company who can share their experiences.

Since returning to the C-suite as a new mom, Noaman says she’s tried to encourage a more flexible, inclusive environment for working parents at Estée Lauder — whether it’s by swapping parenting advice with her colleagues or adjusting project deadlines and meeting times for employees with caregiving responsibilities. 

“We’re all human, a lot of us are working from our houses or kitchen tables and also juggling kids, and we should normalize that,” Noaman says. “It creates a more supportive, positive environment and helps us do our jobs better.”

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