The Unexpected Benefit of Discussing Your Pregnancy at WorkAela Mass
I recently changed jobs. Well, my day job, at least. I’d been at my old job for over four years, and I had gotten very close with my coworkers during that time. This included my boss. It was an amazing group of people to work with and for, and a handful of them have become dear friends of mine.
Because of the close bond we formed — and the overall nature of the job (long hours, weekends volunteering, traveling together, etc.), it never crossed my mind not to share with them my plans of trying to get pregnant. They all already knew I’m gay, so “trying” for me wasn’t the same as trying for others.
My pregnancy attempts involved numerous doctor’s appointments that required taking time off, as is the case with all women trying to conceive via IVF. Again, it never crossed my mind not to discuss the nature of my time off. I talked to my coworkers about everything. They were there for me after my first failed IVF cycle and again when my 2nd cycle was successful. They were also there for me when I lost my twins at 17 weeks pregnant. And when I continued to try again and again and again and again, unsuccessfully.
When I first began my fertility journey, I remember telling my boss that I had intentionally planned the timing so that I wouldn’t be absent for our “busy time of year.” How lucky I was that his reply was something along the lines of, “Please don’t ever consider this place when it comes to this (meaning planning a family). Family always comes first.”
That was the type of boss I had, that was the type of environment I worked in, and those were the type of coworkers I had.
But I know not all women are so lucky. But why shouldn’t they be? And why should it have anything to do with luck?
Why shouldn’t bosses talk to their female employees about pregnancy?
Your immediate answer is probably: “because it’s illegal!”
Except that it isn’t.
Yes, it’s illegal to discriminate against female workers who are pregnant. But there is much more to it than that.
I recently came across an article on The Huffington Post that explains why it’s important to talk about pregnancy at work. And I couldn’t agree more.
According to the article, which highlights the awesome thoughts of Sheryl Sandberg, not talking about pregnancy at work because of the fear of a lawsuit has actually “become one more way that women are sabotaged at work.”
Whoa, sabotage? That sounds pretty serious. But …
She goes on to explain that the workforce loses countless high-earning women because we don’t talk about pregnancy at work.
Specifically, Sandberg states: “There are very good reasons why people don’t talk about this in the office… For too long women were afraid it would be held against them if they were pregnant or even thinking of having children — afraid that someone was going to write us off, or start giving the good projects to someone else. [And managers] didn’t want to be seen as holding this against women. But the unintended consequences of well-intentioned actions are that we don’t help women enough. We don’t acknowledge that this is complicated and help them plan for it.” (SOURCE)
Because the lines aren’t terribly clear between what is and isn’t okay to say about pregnancy in the workplace — and because employers don’t want to risk any chance of being misunderstood and landing in a lawsuit — it’s unlikely that the types of conversations that Sandberg wants to see will actually happen anytime soon.
But if you’re a manager, if you’re in charge, if you’re in any position to begin to have these conversations, do it. Your workforce will strengthen — because meshing work and parenting is the way to go.
::Do you have a workplace-pregnancy story to share? Could you ever imagine your boss talking constructively to you about pregnancy? Tell me about it in the comments!::
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