Over a year ago, one of my female colleagues came to me for advice. She was unhappy in her current role and had started looking outside of the company for a new position. She was also newly pregnant. She was torn between staying in her current role even though she was dissatisfied or searching for a new job while pregnant? My advice was short and sweet – “Land a new job before you start to show.”
She did end up taking my advice and landed a new job two months later, just at the end of her first trimester. Afraid to tell her boss right away, she waited another month to break the news. Fortunately, her boss was thrilled with the news and was very accommodating about the pregnancy. My friend delivered a beautiful baby girl last November and returned to work this past Spring after her maternity leave. I consider her one of the lucky ones.
Although federal anti-discrimination laws make clear that pregnant women are afforded the same protections as any other workers with a temporary physical condition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported a 40 percent increase in pregnancy discrimination complaints since 1992.
The practice of denying jobs to pregnant women or working mothers has been labeled maternal profiling, and it is the source of a growing body of discrimination lawsuits being filed against employers.
For most pregnant women working in my field of high-tech (and many other high-profile, demanding jobs) landing a new job while pregnant would be like climbing to the peak of Mt Everest. Most of us would not survive. Instead many would be forced turn back to “base camp” and stay in our existing job; even when it is one we hate but know full well that very few companies will hire you when you are noticably preggers.
According to the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, family-related discrimination cases increased by 400 percent from 1996 to 2005. Women sued because they were questioned about their marital status, family plans or child-care provisions during job interviews, then promptly dismissed. Other mothers say they were taken out of contention for jobs that required travel, long hours, or physical labor.
I’ve never been the victim of blatant maternal profiling. At least, not that I know of. But I wonder… all these years I’ve thought that I’ve continued to make strides in my career regardless of my mom status. What if I had been passed up on an opportunity because of perceived familial obligations as a working mother? I don’t often play the woulda, coulda, shoulda mind game, but this has me questioning my reality. Stereotypes and generalizations in the workforce can be tough to change. What opportunities were never even presented to me because I was a mother? Did I unknowingly get passed up for a promotion because of my breast pump?
Have you ever faced discrimination because of your mom status? Did you fight the employer or walk away? Do you have any advice for those facing this battle?