Women Are Afraid to Tell Their Employers They’re Pregnant — and That’s Not OK

The "motherhood penalty" is real, but businesses are starting to wake up to the benefits of working moms in leadership positions.

The workplace gender gap is often discussed in terms of the salary discrepancy for women and men doing the same work — or how women are more likely to be judged on their “likability” than their male counterparts. But it also exists in other ways. One of them is the center of a new report that looked into how much more difficulty moms face in the workplace versus fathers.

Despite the fact that 84 percent of people agree that working moms holding down senior-level jobs are beneficial for companies, many women are still afraid to tell their employers that they’re pregnant, according to The Modern Family Index 2018, a survey of 2,143 employed Americans over the age of 18, commissioned by child care company Bright Horizons and conducted by Kelton Global. In fact, that number has almost doubled within the past five years to 21 percent.

Part of the reason that women are so hesitant to disclose their pregnancies to their employers could be that 78 percent of working moms say that they have to put in more effort than their colleagues to thrive at work. That prejudice is somewhat confirmed by the fact that 41 percent of people polled think working moms are less committed to their jobs and 38 percent of people have unfavorable opinions of flexible hours. Plus, there’s also the sad finding that 75 percent of people polled think working dads are more committed to their jobs than working moms.

The irony is that at the same time, people seem to know there are plenty of reasons to celebrate working moms. Eighty-five percent of people polled think that motherhood imparts lessons that benefit business leaders, which includes being a better listener than working dads or non-parents, staying calm during emergencies, and being a team player.

There is also a role model factor. “Many companies are recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, including having more gender equality and women in senior leadership roles,” Kate Ryder, the CEO and founder of Maven, a digital clinic for women that provides on-demand access to a network of women’s and family health providers, tells Thrive. “Not only does it drive business outcomes, but it also provides more role models and mentors for employees early in their careers, particularly young women. When a young woman sees a mother in a leadership role, she sees what’s possible in her own career.”

It’s time for employers everywhere to rise above the lingering stereotypes and start fully supporting their working mothers.

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