It happened to me when I was pregnant. During pregnancy, I was up for an appraisal. However, due to some strange reason, things turned not quite the way they were expected. I found it impossible to climb the career ladder. Though I was not told this explicitly, my pregnancy was the likely 'problem'.
I have a friend who's also faced this discrimination in her office. It seems, she has to 'work harder' after having children. You apparently need to prove your commitment to work. I don’t know the exact reason for having to prove yourself even harder (be it at home or at the workplace) after having a kid, but is sure is unfair!
In India, it is made apparent that ambitions are to be chased by men or women who are unmarried or aren't planning a family! Workplace issues for both pregnant women and those returning to work after maternity leave appear to be growing across most sectors. The truth is evident -
Working moms are overly discriminated against by employers and colleagues. Stress and discrimination have already driven a major chunk of Indian working moms from their jobs, while many others have suffered a nervous breakdown. I have put together some miserable prejudices Indian working moms face at their workplace - I really wish these would end!
1. “No one ever comes back after having a baby”
Most firms think a pregnant woman will never show up after her maternity leave is over. In a friend’s case, her pregnancy news was met with anger. She worked in an office where most employees were men or the younger lot. No one ever got pregnant and so the CEO wasn’t sure how it worked. So, she just carried on working, but people around withdrew their support leaving her terribly under-resourced. How shameful is that?
2. “Now, you get the privilege of work from home (WFH)”
Who doesn't like the idea of working-from-home? But we try not to opt for it because it’s something you do only when absolutely necessary. During pregnancy, a woman goes through crazy nauseous mornings. Traveling to work can get tough. Due to low-placenta, some are even advised not to step-out at all! So, what does a working woman do in such a situation? She chooses to avail the option of work-from-home. But those jealous colleagues! I can’t quite express their rage. These once-so-cool colleagues begin to sideline you in the office. They envy you for they think you are relaxing at home and probably sleeping all day long! Suddenly, they ‘forget’ to mark you on the important emails because I guess they really and seriously abide by the saying- “out of sight out of mind”.
3. “You are not a team-player”
In my knowledge, most jobs don’t specify any terms and conditions related to “having a family” at the time of filling in applications and giving interviews. So when my cousin, who was just a day shy from having been working in a consultancy for a year announced her pregnancy to the boss, she was asked to leave. Forget about all those 12 months of hard-work, extended work-hours, the possible promotion, instead, she was handed a notice period of a month + a note indicating how unprofessional she was and that she wasn’t a team player! “You have set a wrong example for your fellow workers”. Handle that!
4. “It's difficult to work with someone who is only coming in four days a week”
Ah, this one. One is only made to feel redundant if she decided to work for less than 5 days a week or has to come in late or leave early. At the beginning, the employers promise to be accommodating in terms of honoring a new mom’s flexible working hours. She is hardworking, has been with the firm for that long, etc, etc. But, one fine day, they find someone better to take her place and so she is demoted from her usual responsibilities. Wow!
I too have experienced this. Despite putting in those extra hours to compensate for the 30 minutes lost to collect my son from play school - it still felt 'less'. It left me having to work harder. I was trying to prove a point to them all. Why? In the end, I suffered. Stress started to affect my health.
It is high time organizations not just in India but also across the globe re-visit their work policies for working mothers. The minute a woman announces her pregnancy at the work place, the entire attitude towards her sort of changes. Some lose out on promotions, while for others, work is taken off them or they are demoted. This is pointless, unprofessional and really sad.
All that a working mom really needs is to be working where she feels happy, valued and privileged. If that happens she will give her 200% - and it is these silly biases, not the fact that she is pregnant or a mother, that make this difficult.
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