Overcoming Pregnancy Stereotypes at Work

NY Times: “Pregnant women in the workforce are often stigmatized and stereotyped and can elicit unwanted paternalistic protection,” says Jack Tuckner, a partner in Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, a law firm in Manhattan specializing in women’s workplace rights.

For example, he said, someone might think it’s best if the pregnant woman is not included in late night deadlines, social events involving “knocking back martinis” with the team, or long-term projects that may coincide with her due date.  A pregnant woman might also be excluded from e-mail lists, meetings or business trips. 

Eden B. King, an assistant professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:  “They are seen as already being out of the game,” she said. “Some women report experiencing a form of benevolent sexism, where they are treated like a child who needs to be protected or people pat their stomach.”

So what can you do to get fair treatment?  Speak up, says Tuckner; according to federal and state laws, pregnant women are protected from being treated differently from others.  It’s advisable to put any formal complaint in writing, but keep it civilized and add a touch of humor if appropriate. An informal email is better than an angry letter, which may turn people against you (and elicit a couple snide comments about raging hormones).

But there is a benefit to being pregnant and returning after work as a new parent, says Jamie Ladge, an assistant professor at the Northeastern University College of Business Administration who has conducted studies on pregnancy in the workplace.  Becoming a mother (especially a first-timer) helps you connect to people at varying levels within the company who are also parents. “You make friends with more senior people, clients and those in other departments, easing into a conversation without making it all business,” she said. “Now you have this common ground and that can have very positive ramifications for your career.”

When should I tell people I’m pregnant?

Most women like to wait until they’re past the 12-week mark.  Most women are not showing until about that time, anyway. But if you are experiencing morning sickness, fatigue, or other pregnancy symptoms, you might want to explain to co-workers what is going on. Disclosing your pregnancy early also allows more time to communicate about it with colleagues, says Ms. King.

Keep a barf bag handy

Well, maybe not an actual barf bag. But if you experience nausea and vomiting, you should prepare a bag of emergency supplies, including things like ginger snaps, dry cereal, crackers, hard lemon candies and mouthwash, “and an extra blouse, in case it gets stained or sweaty.”

If you find that you need to use the bathroom frequently, try to combine trips to the bathroom with other places you need to visit, like the mailroom. When in meetings, sit near the door so you can make a quick escape if necessary.

When dealing with fatigue, inquire about having more flexible hours, so that you can come in later or work part-time at home. Some women try to plan time off at the eighth or ninth week, which is when symptoms tend to peak.

Staying part of the team during maternity leave

Make sure your boss and coworkers know how important your career is, that you plan on coming back, and that you are committed to the organization. You can show this even during maternity leave by calling in to see how projects are progressing and stopping by with the baby for a visit, said Jamie Ladge.

Read the entire article here: Expecting a Baby, but Not the Stereotypes

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