Monday, 29 July 2013

Pregnancy in the Boardroom - Can Women REALLY Have It All?

Pregnancy can feel like a conflict of emotions. A real rollercoaster ride, full of winding ups and downs.

On the one hand, you feel ridiculously strong and powerful carrying this tiny, growing baby inside of you. You are overwhelmed with maternal pride and are fiercely protective of your bump.

Yet, on the other hand, you can feel anxious and vulnerable. We know that women are often told that we CAN have it all, but we also know from watching friends get pushed from the career ladder (more on that later) that it isn’t always true. As soon as we leap onto the path of motherhood, our world as we know it gets turned upside down.

With this in mind, we are delighted to share with you this brilliant sponsored discussion by about maternity rights in the workplace today.

Can women really have it all? Or do bosses make it all too easy to push women from the boardroom the second they get pregnant? Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace?

Please let us know your thoughts,

Sam and Teresa x

P.S Bloggers, Hirebloggers are constantly looking for people to engage in subjects that interest you, so do get in touch!


Pregnant workplace

When I worked in an office, I was always aware of the growing crisis which faced women once they reached a certain age. It was almost as if you were presented with a cross-roads the second you got engaged, or chose to settle down. Far from the “have it all” ideal women are always sold, I realised that, too often, we only get one choice, only have one chance.

Do you choose career, or do you choose a family?

In fact, just a few months after I got engaged, colleagues - or bosses, often enough - would sidle up to me and say, “Oh, I suppose it will be babies next then? Do you think you’ll have them soon?”

I was genuinely shocked. I felt like saying, “Errr...none of your business, thanks." I sensed a ticking time bomb, one in which I would be forced to choose - family or career? I wanted both, but I knew that I wasn’t going to get it. Not the way things were.

In the end, I chose to quit my full-time job and become a freelancer. I wanted to be able to bring up a family, but I also wanted a career I could grow and nurture. I wanted to be there for my children, while at the same time making them beam with pride. In short, I wanted to control my own destiny.

With this in mind, it came as no surprise to learn that other mums-to-be often feel shunted and discriminated against, particularly in the workplace. I am most definitely not alone.

A recent survey by Quality Solicitors has revealed that almost HALF (42 per cent) of all women were anxious about taking maternity leave and telling their bosses they are pregnant. In fact, a whopping 40 per cent feel that pregnancy is viewed negatively in the workplace.

Isn't this shocking?

As well as this, the survey reveals that more than half of women who accepted a job while pregnant had their job terminated once bosses learned the reality. Yes, really...

But as I've come to realise, this survey is far from just statistics. It is real, and happens more often than you would thing.

Take my 36-year-old friend, for example. A beautiful, smart, talented woman, she is the kind of girl who used to have offices fighting to employ her. Yet for many years, she worked for the same marketing firm, working her way up from the bottom, building successful relationships with clients and nurturing important accounts.

But then, she fell pregnant with her daughter. 

"I could see myself being looked at in a different way," she said. "I felt like they thought, 'Oh, poor pregnant lady' and they stopped handing me major clients or meetings. I was slowly being phased out."

Eventually - at 8 months pregnant, for crying out loud - my friend was called into her bosses' office and made redundant.

"I couldn't believe it. I just collapsed into the chair and sobbed. I was 8 months pregnant, I couldn't afford to not work, yet here I was losing my job. What was I meant to do?"

My friend, who recently gave birth to a boy, has since suffered with severe depression and has been crippled by low self-esteem. She is too scared to even contemplate applying for further jobs as she believes she will be turned away.

"Why would anyone want me now? I have two children, I've been out of work for four years and I'm well out of the loop - who would want me?"

However,  as you'll see from Teresa's piece below, my friend's story isn't a one-off. It's a daily occurrence.

So, my message to you ladies who are planning a baby? Know your rights. Arm yourselves with every known fact out there and don't be scared of a fight...


Some years ago I used to work for the leading supermarket chain in the UK. I was one of the busy bees behind the scenes and was based at a large distribution centre, working in the offices.

It was quite a doom and gloom place to work - from the directors to the cleaners, the morale was so low it was a wonder that share prices were skyrocketing; we were renowned for reporting record profits every year and we could afford to pay the Spice Girls to do our Christmas advertising campaign.

However, despite this, senior managers and directors were constantly eyeing up every member of staff to see if they could save themselves precious pennies in their annual expenditure report. Big gold star if you were the manager who had saved money come next March 31st.

As I fell pregnant with my first son, Charlie, my manager had recently changed to a new one called Alan* (*identity changed). Alan was renowned for being two-faced and, my goodness, did he suck up to me at first. The man couldn't do enough for me, although little did I know what he had up his sleeve.

As my maternity leave commenced, I was sent off with an abundance of gifts from my colleagues and I was incredibly excited that in a few weeks time I would be meeting my little bundle of joy.

Charlie was born and I had the flow of visitors who couldn't wait to see him. But, surprisingly, I had a work colleague itching to see me and I arranged for her to meet Charlie two days after he was born. Debbie* came to my house and after the usual niceties she then dropped the bombshell.

"Can't believe they have made you redundant."

What?!? Since when? it just me, who else? And why?

Debbie was insistent my job had been made redundant as it had been announced to everyone that Friday as they left for the weekend. So how come I hadn't been told anything about it??

I was inconsolable, so upset that this had happened. Not because I loved my job, I didn't. But why had they gone about it like this? And why did I have to hear it from someone else two days after I had given birth?

I decided I would carry on with my maternity leave and wait until February when I was due back to work.

February came and still I hadn't received a letter, nor had I heard anything from anyone at work. I didn't know what to do, so I telephoned and asked the Personnel Manager.

"Yes, that's right Teresa, your position has been made redundant in a national rollout. You no longer have a job and we haven't got anything else we can offer you I'm afraid."

Hmmm, something didn't sound right to me, surely to be made redundant I should have received something in writing? So I made my own investigations. I telephoned all of the other distribution centres in the UK - Doncaster, Crick, Livingstone, Chepstow to mention but a few. My job was very much still in place and, in fact, some of the depots had two people employed to do my job.

My suspicions were confirmed - my new manager had tried to have a reshuffle to save some money and I was the easiest target because I was the one who had left to have a baby.

Of course, Alan  had chosen the wrong gal to mess with. I carried out a lot of research and quickly concluded my job was still there and somebody was telling porkies.

I arranged a meeting with Alan and the Personnel Manager. I turned up and handed them both an agenda of how the meeting was going to be conducted, I advised I would be taking notes for future reference and, if necessary, as evidence. Then I slapped the employment law on their desk advising them of the correct procedure of how to make an employee redundant.

I controlled that meeting from beginning to end and they were suitably embarrassed and apologetic when I confronted them with my evidence about their lies regarding the redundancy being a national rollout.

They did at first try to insist I had been made redundant and they didn't see why they had to confirm my redundancy in writing! Of course the largest company in the UK does know this is standard procedure. But these two snakes thought they could get away with it.

Needless to say I was triumphant and my requests of changing department, hours and a pay increase were all met. All of which was also included in my minutes of the meeting and handed to all senior management afterwards.

BUT not everyone is like me. Most people would shy away and not fight for what is right. And to be honest with you, it was hell. I had months of sleepless nights, I lost a lot of weight and there were many times I didn't think I could take on such a big corporation.

My maternity leave story is very much one of many, I have heard other friends encounter similar difficulties with work where suddenly their job has changed whether it be their hours of work or suddenly their job is now based in a town 40 miles away. All of which to force them out of the company. So many managers are using maternity leave as a lever to oust you from the company and it is wrong!