It never really occurred to me, just how much different women have it in the workplace, especially when they drop the pregnancy “bomb”. Now before I lose you because “you’re not a feminist”, here me out. I am the type of person that’s very skeptical of bandwagons, or labels. I don’t subscribe to an area of thought without putting a lot of reason with it, and considering real facts, and not just some inflated numbers to prove an ideological point. However, as I’ve observed my own environments, and those of my peers and friends, I’ve noticed some very troubling news. Yes, there is such a thing as discrimination in the workplace, and no I don’t think it’s everywhere. But it is around more than it should be, and to the young working woman, you should be aware.
This piece isn’t a whine-fest, because I don’t believe in that. I want results, answers, something that I can offer a young woman, a piece of advice. The bottom-line is, you starting a family is not helpful to your employer and literally, invokes fear. It concerns and worries them that you might do the following: leave, get sick, take a longer leave, be disinterested in your work, or not “focus” enough after you’ve come back from said leave. Now, all off these fears are irrational and not based on facts, but they are commonly thought to be true from an employer-business perspective. And for a long time, I saw some merit in thinking that way. For example, how is a business owner to keep maintaining their client base, their project management flowing, and all of the other office duties when you are gone for one to three months? I could see how that would impact a business owner, how that might not be helpful. But then I thought again. What if my male counterparts, had knee surgery, got hit by a bus, or decided to take a month-long vacation? Would they be looked at with the same disdain and disapproval? I wondered…
I think the reason why that’s treated so differently, or at least not as feared by employers, is because pregnancy is such a tangible thing. You have an employee who’s body is changing on a daily basis; it’s concrete you can see that. You can’t as easily see your other staff making life changes, that could just as easily happen. And for male or non-family planning women, it’s just more acceptable. Even if they aren’t as solid an employee, well at least they aren’t going off, growing humans… They make an assumption based on tangibility and years of connotation regarding women and having a family. But let me tell you something, young women, both professionally and personally, you’re so critical.
What if these same employers looked at what happens to society, when women don’t have the ability to properly bond and raise their children? What employee, after laboring for days, bleeding excessively, getting a major surgery performed on their insides, would ever be expected to reasonably go right back to work? Can you imagine the level of medical trauma and acrobatic skill your body and emotions endure through this process? Do they consider who raised them to be so successful? Women, you give life. And you do it every day whether you’re a mom or not, it’s part of your divine design. Whether you plan a dinner party, a wedding, forge a project or product launch at work, you bring life a vibrancy to the table with a natural poise and grace that cannot be matched. You are needed, necessary, and cannot be duplicated. Side note to mothers everywhere: You are all rock-stars.
Society suffers, when you are cast down. You’re own health and your child’s is at risk when you aren’t able to properly take your leave. Mothers who return to work so early are plagued with depression and less likely to breastfeed their children. Their children can suffer developmentally, the feature notes. Researchers have even found a correlation between the amount of leave a new mother takes and infant mortality rates (Huffington Post). We have a major problem, and it’s bigger than paid leave and day-care costs. Our culture has lost the value of family. We work longer hours, buy more crap than we can enjoy or afford, and have little joy left over. We are tired, stressed and unhappy. Our children, our families suffer the effects. We don’t have family dinner, we rush to the drive-thru for our food and wonder why things are such a mess. I don’t think things will change for women, for children, for families, until we value family again. The government can’t wave a magic wand to make employers care. It’s a cultural value system change, a heart change.
So what can women do in the meantime. What can you do now? I say you realize that you can’t have it all, all at once. You need to take seasons in your life to work, and to also be a mother. There is a time to climb the executive ladder, and a time to enjoy your family. But it can’t happen all at once. You have to make that choice. And I think the best thing for women? Entrepreneurship. Take your talents, skills and abilities, and create something to offer the world. You already have it in you, why not give yourself the gift of freedom and choice? You set your hours, your goals, and call the shots. Sure it’s not easy, but I think it’s the best option for women and gives them the ability to be themselves. And when you do become a business woman, hire some females. Give the same grace to them that you’d want from an employer. Change the culture and reply back, that women working and being able to raise families, they are important callings. Don’t let a boss determine you’re worth, that job is for you only. Don’t lose sight of your power, your skills and your heart.
You have the power to invoke change, don’t forget that.
Photo credit: www.moneycrashers.com.