So I’m incredibly lucky. My work has been amazing over my maternity leave and supported me every step of the way. In fact, they have gone above and beyond. However, not everyone is as lucky as me. Some women find that when they announce their pregnancy to work they are severely mistreated, even to the point of being forced out.
Here are some of the facts:
- 54,000 women are forced out of a job because of pregnancy or maternity;
- 77% of working mums endure negativity or discriminatory treatment in the workplace;
- 40% of employers said they would avoid hiring someone of childbearing age;
- Government legislation is completely outdated and does not effectively protect working mothers;
- Less than 1%of victims take legal action against a discriminatory employer;
- Discrimination tends to have a negative impact on a woman’s confidence and mental health. This often has a long term impact on their career and sometimes has a negative impact on their relationship with their child and partner;
- Motherhood is a major contributor to the gender pay gap, with the gap for young women and men being almost non-existent, whilst the gap widens consistently for 12 years after the first child is born, by which point women receive 33% lesspay per hour than men.
How is this even possible in this day and age? Especially with issues like the gender pay gap so prevalent in the media. Why aren’t more people talking about this issue?
Luckily there is some help out there in the form of a campaign called Pregnant Then Screwed (currently active in the UK, US and Spain.) This campaign protects, supports and promotes the rights of mothers who suffer the effects of systemic, cultural, and institutional discrimination.
Pregnant Then screwed aims to document the stories of working mothers to expose this nuanced and systemic problem. They want to campaign for legislative change which will reduce discrimination and help to create gender parity both in the home and the workplace. They want to talk publicly about the benefits of companies protecting pregnant women and mothers. They not only offer a free legal advice service and a platform on which to share experiences, but also offer a mentorship scheme which pairs women who have previously taken legal action against an employer with women who are considering legal action against their employer.
Joeli Brearley is the founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, and set it up as a direct result encountering maternity discrimination (sacked by her employer when she was four months pregnant). Since then, she has been working tirelessly over the years to raise awareness of this important issue. She has worked with advocates such as Helen Skelton, Angela Rayner MP, Dr Sue Black OBE (and many more) to raise awareness of her plight. She has also done plenty of press too and managed to get the issue discussed on Radio 4, The Guardian, Victoria Derbyshire and The Huff Post amongst other outlets. However, there is of course, always more work to do and Joeli needs more support to help those suffering from maternity discrimination.
I spoke to Joeli Brearley on Facebook about what she is trying to achieve just the other day and she is definitely an inspiration, whether you have dealt with discrimination or not. She encouraged me to look into March of the Mummies on 31st October in Trafalgar Square (London) to support the Pregnant Then Screwed cause.
When I spoke to her about the march, Joeli said: “March of the Mummies is our first demonstration, and we are encouraging those attending to dress up as mummies (the walking dead kind) to highlight the archaic behaviour of some employers today. Since founding Pregnant Then Screwed in 2015, after I experienced maternity discrimination, I have heard from thousands of women who have suffered similar experiences. Despite many advances in gender equality, maternity discrimination is rife and discussion remains taboo. It is a little known fact that the number of women who lose their job for getting pregnant has almost doubled in the last 10 years. Therefore our march is an opportunity for us to collectively come together and have our voices heard.”
I obviously wouldn’t be able to attend this time, given I should have a very new arrival by then, but I would encourage anyone who can make it down to join her and help fight for fellow mums. The more we do now, the more unlikely it is that our kids will grow up facing discrimination like this.
Want more information about the campaign or the march?
You can also find out more about (and buy tickets for) the March of the Mummies here.