Two candidates sparred over an issue of pregnancy discrimination during one of the primary debates for the 2020 presidential election. The move created a small stir, but mostly about how effective it would be as a political strategy.
Leaving aside any disagreements about the statements or who would make a good U.S. President, there is no doubt that pregnancy discrimination in the United State is real, damaging and a very 21st century problem.
Careful investigation reveals the extent of the problem
Large and widely respected corporations and government institutions in America are among the workplaces that blatantly and ruthlessly discriminate against women who dare to become pregnant and pursue a career. This, at least, was the conclusion of an extensive 2018 investigation at the New York Times.
The news organization poured over court and other publicly available records and conducted dozens of interviews. They found a systematic pattern of companies denying promotions and raises, firing, and attempting to humiliate and intimidate women because of pregnancies, commonly dealing a permanent blow to their professional goals.
Discrimination not just a thing of the past
This was not a history project. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tracks the claims filed with the EEOC and the steadily climbing number pregnancy discrimination claims annually is at a near-record level. In 2017, the number was about that in 1992 when the EEOC starting counting.
Motherhood penalty emerges after in-depth research
Women are increasingly employed in jobs once seen as beyond their physical abilities, such as firefighting, construction, etc. Pregnant women or new mothers, the Times found, often lose their jobs when they ask for “special treatment” to take rest breaks or carry water bottles.
In corporate and other office environments, managers often kept pregnant women are out of meetings with clients, denied high-value assignments and generally shown in a variety of ways that they are not seen as committed to their work.
Sociologists confirm what call a “motherhood penalty.”
One study showed hundreds of hiring managers two applications from women with equal qualifications, with one indicating the candidate was a mother. Twice as many managers chose to interview the women who were not mothers or hid their motherhood. Another study found that fatherhood increased men’s earnings by 6%, while motherhood decreased women’s earnings by 4%.