Workplace discrimination comes in many forms, from the subtlest type of excluding some affected employees in work discussions to blatant racism and ageism.
It’s nothing new and broad efforts over several decades at the state and federal levels have attempted to bring fairness to the workplace for everyone. These laws and regulations have the best of intentions.
Yet, in 2014 there remains a very sticky issue that very few people want to talk about, and isn’t on the radar of most companies. That issue – the needs of pregnant workers and new mothers – is a lingering form of gender discrimination that never seems to go away.
A study for the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that women in their child-bearing years face workplace obstacles that either employers are unable or unwilling to resolve. And, in many cases, these women don’t speak up because they are afraid of repercussions.
Some of the partnership’s findings were:
Sixty-one percent of respondents said they either worked for someone else or were self-employed during their pregnancy.
Seventy-one percent said they needed some minor adjustments on the job to protect their health during pregnancy. Most often it was the need for more frequent work breaks once they become pregnant.
Yet 42 percent of those women never asked their employers to accommodate them. Many of those said they either weren’t sure how to ask for accommodations, or they feared repercussions, refusal, or uncertainty about how their requests would be received.
More than one in four new mothers reported experiencing bias from their employers due to perceptions of their “desire, ability, and commitment” to doing their jobs.
Fifty-eight percent of new mothers said breast-feeding upon their return to work had been a challenge.
“The experiences of pregnant women and new moms across the country demonstrate that not enough is being done to ensure that the nation’s workplaces have the basic policy standards necessary to prevent discrimination and promote the cultural changes America’s women and families need and deserve,” says Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said 47 percent of the nation’s workforce was composed of women. A large percentage of that population is in the child-bearing years.
“At a time when having a job during and after a pregnancy is a financial necessity for many women and their families, the data and experiences of mothers show that much more needs to be done to ensure fair and supportive workplaces,” Ness said.