The ticking time bomb: pregnancy in the workplace

I have a confession to make. I might be tempted to discriminate against my own sex.

Sure, it hasn’t happened yet. But put it this way: if I was interviewing two candidates for a role who were both completely equal in all aspects except that one was a man who was 32 and one was a woman who was 32, I have to admit I would certainly wonder what the likelihood of the woman going on maternity leave in the near future was. I’d think of all the investment into training, immersion, and the experience that would be built up – and I’d wonder whether it would be a smart choice.

Then I’d get a grip and remind myself that no employer has any guarantee – either gender is just as likely to decide to move abroad, change careers, start their own business, or decide the company just isn’t right for them. And I’d offer the job to whoever I felt was funnier.

But speculating about the longevity you might get out of a potential employee is one thing. Actually knowing they’re halfway out the door is another.

A very brave friend of mine recently screened 250 CV’s and interviewed almost 50 candidates for a role. Of the two candidates that were eventually whittled down to, only one ended up having all the right skills and experience for the job.

That candidate was a five month pregnant woman.


Now that takes some serious balls. Not only to eyes-wide-open employ someone who you know will only be with you for 3 months before potentially taking 3 months (or more) off, but also to take on waging an internal battle with your CEO and VP to get approval to hire on that basis. But my friend was convinced. Not only did HE (that’s right, a man) believe that she was the right person for the job, he was convinced that she understood how high stress the role would be, and how aggressive the targets she would need to hit in an accelerated timeframe before she went on maternity leave were.

Unfortunately, his “friends” were not so convinced. First response received when he made his announcement: “she must be really hot”. Say what? What a way to completely dismiss the fact that this woman has not only clearly built a strong CV with great industry contacts and experience, but also suggest that your mate would make a hiring decision based on his penis. Awesome fellas, just great.

For me, this just highlights the adversity women face on so many levels. When we’re good enough for the job, we not only have simple biology working against us, but clear sexism as well. Comments about our looks and attractiveness may well be meant as jokes, but jokes are only funny because they’re based on some kind of truth.

We need more people in the world like my friend, who says “I am strong believer it is every woman’s right to have a baby and my focus was 100% on her ability and experience she brought to the role.”

And we need more women like her: unafraid to apply for the job she wants, regardless of her impending motherhood. As my friend puts is: “she could easily just stay with her current employer and enjoy her maternity leave – so I knew she was very serious and passionate about joining us!”

Long may our passion and ambition continue. Whether that’s at work, in sports, on our blogs, or in our kitchens. Whatever it may be, we need to help others understand that motherhood is no impediment to our ability to get the job done. Because women just work harder, don’t you agree?


2 thoughts on “The ticking time bomb: pregnancy in the workplace

  1. Tell me you’ve read this bit in the bookclub book/!

    “Don’t leave before you leave”: don’t relax your career ambition just because you’re going to take (what could be) a 3 month break. It doesn’t work for everyone or in all situations, but I think it’s an important mental obstacle for employers and women to overcome.

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