15 May 2014

Pregnancy Discrimination at Work: The Results

The Guardian: 'Working after eight months of pregnancy is as harmful as smoking, study finds'
The Daily Mail: 'Working in late stages of pregnancy is as bad as smoking, new research claim'
Marie Claire: 'Working at eight months pregnant has same effect on your baby as smoking'

In my last blog post, I waxed lyrical about the fact that pregnant women are stereotyped as 'incompetent'1 at work, and that an estimated 30,000 women a year lose their jobs as a result of being pregnant2,3. Over the past few months, catalysed by inaccurate media reports (see links above) on evidence that "working while pregnant is as harmful as smoking" 4, I have been conducting research to investigate the experiences of pregnant workers compared to other people at work. Here are the results.

First and foremost, the data show that pregnant women experience more discrimination at work than men, and also more discrimination than women who are not pregnant. Pregnant women also experience more stress at work than men as a result of this discrimination. However, women are 'protected' by the degree to which their work context is staffed by other women. That is, if you are pregnant and work in industries, organisations, departments and teams that are largely populated by other women, you are less likely to suffer workplace discrimination than if you work with mostly men.

This evidence suggests that pregnancy discrimination is likely to be caused – at least to some extent – by the gendered culture of the workplace. In other words, more 'feminine' workplace cultures may provide a supportive environment in which to work whilst pregnant. On the other hand, working in more masculine environments whilst pregnant may prove to be more… tricky.

Now, I would like to hear your anecdotes about your experiences of working whilst pregnant. This, plus the results above, will enable me to petition organisations to implement evidence-based antenatal working policy that will support the physical and psychological health of pregnant workers. Therefore, please share your experiences at work with me by clicking on the link below. I will share the findings with you on this website as soon as the results are in.

Take the questionnaire

Thank you.

  • 1 Masser, B., Grass, K., & Nesic, M. (2007). 'We like you, but we don't want you' –The impact of pregnancy in the workplace. Sex Roles, 57, 703-712.
  • 2 Equal Opportunities Commission. (2005). Greater Expectations: Final Report of EOC investigation into discrimination against new and expectant mothers in the workplace.
  • 3 Maternity Action. (2013). Pregnant women and new mums at risk of redundancy. Retrieved on October 13th 2013 from: http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/
  • 4 Del Bono, E. & Ermisch, J. & Francesconi, M. (2012). Intrafamily Resource Allocations: A Dynamic Structural Model of Birth Weight. Journal of Labor Economics, 30(3), 657 - 706.