Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times explains that while having children is a routine part of life for working women, the attitudes in American culture about gender and work have not caught up with the fact that women have shown they can be both mothers and productive employees. By the same token, assumptions that men should be breadwinners and not caregivers have also not changed. The results are discriminatory for both women and men in different ways:
- Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work, or to be paid as much as male colleagues with the same qualifications. They are seen as less stable than women with no children or men.
- Because men with children are seen as more stable, they are more likely to be hired than childless men and are paid more. But men with children who want to take family leave or use flexible work arrangements to be caregivers receive worse job evaluations and lower hourly raises and are at greater risk of being laid off.
- There is no legal protection for pregnant workers. A bill called the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act, requiring employers to make “reasonable accommodation” for workers who become pregnant, does not have enough support in the US Congress to pass.
- Tell your boss as soon after the first trimester as possible to allow time for planning.
- Know your legal rights, company policy, and the insurance benefits available to you for maternity/family leave.
- Think about your work calendar and begin planning early for big events or deliverables that will occur during your absence. Develop a detailed draft work plan for coverage of your responsibilities, and review this with your supervisor.
- Talk with your boss, or HR, about the available facilities for breast pumping so that you know whether breast-feeding is an option when you return.
- Determine the amount and type of contact you do or don’t want during your leave, and discuss this with your boss. Develop a communication plan for letting your colleagues and clients know who to communicate with while you are on leave.