When I was writing my book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, I interviewed an ambitious young woman from a competitive consulting firm who had just returned from maternity leave. Recently promoted before her leave, she was eager to get back to work and resume her new responsibilities. What she realized rather quickly, however, was that she wasn’t given the same type of clients, wasn’t asked to travel, and was pretty much sidelined from the types of projects she led prior to her leave, despite her making arrangements for childcare in preparation.

She approached her HR representative about the change and was told that the company assumed she didn’t want to work as hard now that she was a new mom. They assumed she wouldn’t want to travel. Those assumptions prevented her from transitioning back to the role she had worked so hard to achieve. A quick conversation with her manager and HR rep was able to dismiss these misconceptions so she could continue on the career trajectory she desired.

How do you avoid falling into a similar trap? It takes careful planning and communication.

The reality is that new moms are treated differently. The motherhood penalty affects not only women’s leadership status, but their income, earning 58 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. New moms are assumed to be less committed to their work and career. Often these assumptions prevent them from new promotions, raises, and special assignments that might give them increased visibility within the organization.

I reached out to Barbara Palmer, founder of Broad Perspective Consulting and the creator of Your 4th Trimester (Y4T) program for her advice on how ambitious women can protect their leadership status once they go on parental leave. Her program helps support employees transition back to work after their leave. Palmer’s suggestions include how to prepare before taking leave as well as how to smoothly transition back to work.

Read the full article on Forbes.com.