Pregnant and Jobless? Fuggitaboutit!

Published on by Victoria Pynchon.

Looking forward to her first child should have made Dutch supermodel Lara Stone happy. But, like too many women, she lost a job because of it.

According to the Fertility and Infertility Research News Portal,

Stone found out she was pregnant right before an important modeling gig and promptly passed the news on to the people who had booked her. When she arrived for the job, however, she was told they’d booked someone else. No one came right out and said it was because she was expecting, but she told Porter she got the distinct impression that had something to do with it.

No office baby shower for you! Just a pink slip or continued unemployment after your unemployment benefits have run out.

How does it feel? 

“I was really upset at the time,” the 30-year-old catwalker said. “I hadn’t yet had my three-month scan and I felt really vulnerable about everything. I no longer had a job. That was it — I had to just stop everything that I knew; the way my life was.”

Is This a Matter of Etiquette or a Legal Obligation?

Listen up!  This supermodel was obviously not "showing." She was not "dismissed" because she couldn't do the job.

And she was in her first trimester when there's a 12 to 25% chance of miscarriage.

Whether to voluntarily give a prospective employer the opportunity to illegally discriminate against you is not a question of etiquette for the individual woman to wrestle with the night before an interview.

It's a matter of law.

It's also a matter of fact that you're far more likely to lose the job if you disclose your pregnancy. I don't have figures for the United States, but a survey of HR professionals in the United Kingdom revealed that 95% of all hiring managers would refuse to hire a pregnant woman

Shocked?

Get ready for this. The same survey revealed that 52% of those hiring managers "assessed the likelihood of a candidate's getting pregnant, taking into account her age and whether she had recently married."

40% of All American Children Are Born to Single Mothers

Take these problems for a ride around the block.

Forty percent of all children in the United States are born to single mothers. Who does the society think is going to pay rent, food, electricity, gas, car fare, child care, clothing, diapers, doctor bills, bus fare? 

A working mother or taxpayers.

Working mothers are demonized despite the fact that 76% of all mothers are now in the work force. And there's a 16% wage gap between women with children and women without children. And it's not because the women are "too distracted" by their child care responsibilites to "lean in" to their jobs, occupations, careers and professions.

No one assumes men are too distracted to get their work done even though men think about sex, eating and sleeping twice as much as women do:

the median number of sexual thoughts for men was 18.6 and for women it was 9.9. In contrast, the average for men was 34.2 and for women it was 18.6. Statistical tests indicated that the number of thoughts about sex was not statistically larger than the number of thoughts about food and sleep. Men had more thoughts about all three of those areas than did women. The typical men in this sample were thinking about sex once or twice an hour, and statistically no more and no less than they were thinking about eating or sleeping.

See How Often Do Men and Women Think About Sex?

Women's "Choices" Step One: Sex 

A woman's first reproductive "choice" is sex with or without birth control. 

The anti-birth control squad tends to view pregnancy as a punishment for a woman who has sex with a man without reproductive intent. Because the statistics on unconsented sex create a firestorm, I'm going to skip the data and go straight to women's experiences.

Raise your hands, ladies, if a man at any time has physically forced you to have sex with him without a condom. Raise your hands if he physically forced you to have sex when you were using a diaphgram but didn't have it on you.

Raise your  hands if a condom ever broke or was ever dislodged during sex. Then raise your hands if you were bullied into have unprotected sex, particularly if the bullying took the form of a threat of physical violence or an economic threat.

It only takes one of these events for a woman to become pregnant. And she's liable to become pregnant as a result of one of these events during her approximate 30 year fertility cycle.

So, women's "choices" about their sexual and reproductive lives are pretty damn mythical even when we're just talking about the fist step - sex. 

Women's Choices Step Two: The Termination of a Pregnancy

The far right wing has made abortion so shameful that women are afraid to talk about it even though one-third of all women will have at least one abortion during their reproductive years.

Unsurprisingly, that statistic includes me. 

My thighs were sticking to the paper lining of the examination table in the fall of my third year of law school waiting for the results of a pregnancy test.

There was a calendar on the wall and I was counting the months. If I were pregnant, I'd likely give birth at the end of April, one month before my last year of law school and two months before the Bar exam.

My husband and I had discussed having a family on many occasions. His extremely strong opinion was that the mother had to spend at least the first five years with her children to "bond" with them. He was a social worker and he "knew" these things. I was a law student and what I knew were my rights. I wasn't, however, so sure about my heart.

I  thought about my choice for just about ten minutes. I was not going to throw away two years of law school, spend year three pregnant and likely miss the July Bar Exam, not to mention be unable to fill the job I had lined up for my first year of practice. Back in the day, all the women who came before me told me not to get pregnant before I made partner because the men would conclude I wasn't really "into" it.

A dozen years later I was pregnant for the second time. Thirty-eight and single. My life circumstances made my potential single motherhood unthinkable. Because this was likely my last chance to procreate, I gave the termination of that pregnancy at least a week of careful consideration. Then I terminated.

People want to take this right to one's own life away from women. Lots of people. An entire political party in fact. I will fight the fight until I'm gibbering nonsense in a nursing home. Don't look for us to lower our voices or keep our secrets for much longer.

Women's Choices Step Three: "Having" It "All"

Are you still with me? 

As soon as other people's desire to control women's bodies is taken off the table, the forces of darkness are all about women's "choices" again.

Wage-gap-deniers say that women "choose" to work in low-paid "women's jobs" without understanding that the reason "women's jobs" are low paid is because the occupation is dominated by women.

History: "women's jobs" weren't low paid when they were held by men. Think: male clerical workers before this was considered "fit" work for women; think: public relations before the field became dominated by women; think: the low value but relatively high wages for physcial labor in the 21st century when the socio-economic need for brawn is approaching zero and what women do best - learn - is what society needs.

Women's jobs pay less because they're held by women.

But what about those highly paid professions and occupations that women supposedly "choose" to leave because (pick one): they want to  have a family (unlike men?) or they "don't want to work that hard."

When a prominent man says he left his prominent job to spend more time with his family, everyone sees it for the ruse it likely is. When Anne-Marie Slaughter says it, it makes front page news in support of the proposition that women can't "have it all."

What women often can't do is do it all. 

Last time I looked, motherhood was pure sacrifice, not a free pass from life's messy and too often brutal grind. Last time I looked, women were continuing to tend to the domestic while at the same time busting their butts to earn a living for themselves and their families.

In whose world is this about "having" something or "wanting" something that the other half of the human race already has? In whose world is the working mother a greedy b-word-itch who just wants to take, take, take?

Now add to this the wide-spread discrimination against pregnant women and those who might get pregnant and you have the perfect storm of the wage gap. 

Stop Pretending Women Have These Choices

These are not choices. These circumstances are a combination of biology and the historic and long out-dated structure of the workplace and now artificial division between labor and domesticity. 

If you'd like to read about how many decades of "having it all" women have been subjected to (since the 1950s when women were urged back home after ably serving their country in the WWII-era workforce) read Opt-Out or Pushed Out: How the Press Covers Work-Family Conflict, The Untold Story of Why Women Leave the Workforce.

Why We Work At the Top

We work with high potential and high performing women professionals, executives, managers and entrepreneurs.

Sometimes we worry that we're just moving first class deck chairs on the economic Titanic. You know, cutting well-heeled white women into the rich white guy pie. Although we're planning to launch a minimum wage project that serves the 60+% women who are working minimum wage jobs, our concentration is indisputably moving accomplished women upward and closing their wage and leadership gaps.

Yesterday, the New York Times published a lengthy piece on executive women at the top of the game,Riches Come to Women as CEOs But Few Get There.  I'm not going to give you the sorry statistics or wage gaps up there in the stratosphere, but I am going to give you the reported beneficial effect for all women when the few of us within rock throwing distance of the C-suite finally cross the threshold.

Another indication that gender plays a role in executive pay is that female executives earn up to 20 percent more in companies where a woman is the chief executive or heads the board than at similar companies led by men, according to a paper by Linda A. Bell, an economics professor who is now provost and dean of the faculty at Barnard College. Companies led by women also have more women as senior executives.

“The help of women by women is an important factor in the career outcomes of women,” Ms. Bell wrote.

Let emphasize that.

The Help of Women By Women is an Important Factor in the Career Outcomes of Women

If you'd like to read recent coverage about individual women's "choice" to reveal their pregnancy to prospective employers, read Should You Disclose Your Pregnancy in a Job Interview over at Fast Company.

Published on by Victoria Pynchon.