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Pregnant on the Job: Does it Help? Or Hurt?

According to Lisa Garcia, an expert in employment law and human resources, pregnancy need not be a strike against you when applying for a new job. In fact, if played right, it could be an advantage. In her Washington Post advise column last week, Garcia advises a 7.5 month pregnant woman not to reveal her pregnancy before her interview. Why call out the pregnancy if it’s not relevant to your professional qualifications?

While it’s illegal to refuse to hire a women on the grounds that she’s pregnant, Garcia points out, employers may still worry about your level of commitment and maternity-leave negotiations. So don’t make a fuss about the pregnancy, rather wear a killer maternity suit and show utter confidence:

“What you convey through this approach is that, in your view, your pregnancy has no bearing on your qualifications for the job. It is simply a temporary condition on the path of a highly successful and productive career that can be managed in a fairly routine fashion. If you truly believe this and you believe in your ability to excel despite the fact that you are in the third trimester of your pregnancy, then the hiring manager will soon believe it, too.”

I can’t argue with anyone who advises you to be confident in a job interview. This is the fake-it-till-you-make-it ethos that makes the corporate world go round. But it can be hard to know in advance precisely how parenthood will change your attitude about work. And when you’re 7.5 months pregnant and unemployed in a country with 10% unemployment… well, it can be a little tricky to believe that everything will be just fine.

But I think this desperate economy may make it easier for pregnant workers on another level: Maybe employers will have more confidence that a new mom will stick around now that times are tough? Mothers are less likely to “opt out” these days. Choices have whittled considerably; people are taking what they can get. Two income households are a necessity for most families.Where they once saw sick days and early departures, maybe employers now see increased devotion and responsibility.

A friend recently told me that the attitude of her colleagues changed once she became pregnant. They took her more seriously, assumed she’d become more stable, more committed, less likely to make a risky move to another company. I found that this was true in my workplace when employees became pregnant. Sure, there was the question of whether a woman would stay on after the baby was born. But once a mother made it clear she intended to work it was (quietly) assumed she’d be a better employee. Companies like desperation in their employees. It means less complaining, more playing by the rules.

Now I know this isn’t true across the board. And there are certainly lots of examples of pregnant women and mothers being treated very poorly in the workplace if not flat-out discriminated against. But I am interested to hear the odd positive story about how pregnancy affords respect– it’s always nice to know when someone is taking pregnant women seriously.

I’d be interested to hear other experiences. Has pregnancy helped or hurt your professional status?

Suit jacket pictured above: Button Front Herringbone Jacket ($175.00) from A Pea In The Pod

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