By Stephen Adams for The Mail on Sunday
Published: 17:45 EST, 12 February 2022 | Updated: 17:45 EST, 12 February 2022
A law firm has appointed a ‘fertility officer’ in an effort to dispel the notion that becoming a mother is career suicide.
Burgess Mee, which specialises in family law, is believed to be the first company in Britain to introduce the post.
Natalie Sutherland, who has taken on the part-time role, said she hoped to convince junior lawyers that there was no need to keep their pregnancy plans secret.
Natalie Sutherland (pictured), who has taken on the part-time role, said she hoped to convince junior lawyers that there was no need to keep their pregnancy plans secret
‘The impression that me and my peers were given early in our careers was, ‘If you want to do well, you shouldn’t be having babies until you are established,’ ‘ said Ms Sutherland, an expert in family and surrogacy law.
‘But that compounds the problem because usually you only become established when you are well into your 30s when your fertility is starting to decline.
‘As female lawyers, there is a worry that having children before making partnership is essentially career suicide, and I feel strongly that it should not be thought of in that way.’
An increasing number of large firms in the legal and other sectors offer employees fertility benefits such as free IVF or egg-freezing.
Ms Sutherland, 43, said women welcome such benefits, but they offered no guarantee of a baby, while critics fear perks encourage women to delay having children.
An increasing number of large firms in the legal and other sectors offer employees fertility benefits such as free IVF or egg-freezing (file photo used)
Ms Sutherland became a mother at 36 after making it to partner level, but has endured fertility problems, including a miscarriage.
She said: ‘Isn’t it better to have an open culture where young lawyers coming up don’t feel like they have to choose between career and family?’
If a female employee was struggling to conceive, she added, they should not have to suffer in silence at work but instead should be able to talk about it.
The move comes amid a sharp fall in births. Since 2010, the average number of children born to each woman has dropped from 1.9 to 1.6.
A fertility rate of 2.1 is needed to maintain the population without immigration.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last month how fertility rates are holding up relatively well among professional women.
Urging employers in other sectors to look at introducing fertility officers, Ms Sutherland said: ‘Fertility issues can affect everybody, not just those in jobs like law.’
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group