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July 31, 2018

How Is Discrimination against Working Moms Still a Thing?

working mom discrimination

Yes, it’s 2018. And yes, many employers still think pregnancy and motherhood are incompatible with work.

Shelley Correll, a Stanford sociologist, presented hundreds of hiring managers with two résumés from equally qualified women. One woman had one child at home, the other was kid-free. What did she find? Managers were twice as likely to call the non-mom for an interview.

Wow. As Shelley points out, “There is a cultural perception that if you’re a good mother, you’re so dedicated to your children that you couldn’t possibly be that dedicated to your career.”

How does that make any sense? 🤔

Studies show that managers often regard women who are visibly pregnant as less committed, less dependable, less authoritative and more irrational than dads and other women. What we still see is that employers get scared of maternity leave and think it’s going to impact their revenue and productivity. But since when does being pregnant mean you’re not the same professional you were nine months ago?

In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This groundbreaking law made discrimination based on pregnancy and childbirth-related medical conditions illegal.

It’s been 40 years and the awful truth is, as we can see from research like Shelley’s, getting pregnant is often the moment women are knocked off the professional ladder.

Discrimination is still at work

Let’s take Erin Murphy’s case. Erin was working as a senior exec at Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trading company (which has experienced more than one allegation of sexism, btw). Erin was denied professional opportunities and discriminated against for being an expectant mother.

According to her, in a chat about potential career moves with her boss, Guy Freshwater, he told her plainly, “You’re old and having babies so there’s nowhere for you to go.”

Erin has hired a lawyer and is planning to sue Glencore. Big-ups for Erin! 💪

Sadly, women like Erin rarely file complaints. Many either can’t afford an attorney, don’t recognize that what happened to them is illegal, or fear unjust punishment.

It seems like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act isn’t being enforced, not only because of the statistics, but because of the sad stories we still hear.

So what’s the real deal here? Why won’t organizations do more to help talented women reach the top?

Unfortunately, business cultures don’t encourage managers and employees to be supportive partners or break the taboo of pregnancy in the workplace.

What can companies do to support pregnancy in the workplace?

The best place to start is with a temporary disability plan. Companies should create one policy to cover both pregnant workers and temporarily disabled employees, and make employees aware of their available options.

As Robert Steindler, SPHR, director of employee services for Independence Air Inc. explained in an article for a HR magazine: “Training is very important, but it’s also imperative that managers know they can come to you and ask questions, whether about the law or concerns they may have about handling a certain situation.” He adds, “Having an environment where dialogue is encouraged is very important.”

As complicated as it may seem to go over the jungle of laws and regulations, avoiding pregnancy discrimination is easy if employers would simply treat pregnant workers the same as any other employee with a temporary medical condition.

And at the end of the day, that’s what’s best for the business. Support for a support for working mothers, results in a more loyal and productive employee.

Support for your people starts from the moment they apply. If you’re ready to do business better, we can help. Breezy lets you hire better candidates, faster using a simple system that make sure every application is touched.