He suspected I would just feel intimidated and leave

I was marketing director of a mid-sized company when I went on maternity leave with a male replacement as my maternity cover. 2 months before I was due to return to work I was informed that my maternity cover had been promoted to be my boss and was now VP of marketing, oh and the one day a week working from home that I had previously done as my sole concession to flexible working was being refused. I could return to my old job but the VP job now covered most of my job description and I would no longer be the marketing decision maker.

At no point was I told that there was a potential promotion or offered the opportunity to apply. Instead the CEO could hardly contain his laughter as he told me the news, suspecting that I would just feel intimated and leave. (He was appointed just before my maternity leave and in the 9 subsequent months had removed 5 of the 6 senior women from the company).

I cannot quite describe how this experience made me feel as it utterly shattered my confidence, ruined the end of my maternity leave and 18 months on I am still very angry. Luckily for me I had the resources to seek legal advice and after a horrid, confidence sapping fight the company agreed to settle (the day before I would have had to inform them I was going to a tribunal). The only reason they settled was that the HR director was sloppy enough to claim in writing that I had been given the opportunity to apply for the VP job, contradicting what she had previously put in writing. But for that I would have faced the stark choice of actually going through with the horror of a tribunal (something even my lawyer said she would almost never recommend) or a humiliating return to a job that I know I would be made redundant from the second I was no longer covered by maternity law.

The only silver lining….3 months later the new VP of marketing was made redundant and shortly after that the CEO was sacked. Doesn’t make up for the misery that I went through but certainly helped take the edge off it a bit.