The women of Britain are pissed, guys. And they have every right to be: According to new data from the country's Equality and Human Rights Commission, roughly 54,000 British women were reportedly forced out of their jobs after having a child. It's no wonder then that they're flocking en masse to the site Pregnant Then Screwed, and sharing stories of office discrimination with the world. The U.K.-based site, which only launched this spring, serves as a Whisper-style confessional blog — and man, is it catching on like wildfire.
I was a successful, self-employed project manager when I discovered that I was pregnant. I knew that having a baby would mean losing some momentum with my freelance work, and of course I anticipated some financial belt-tightening, but I planned everything meticulously to ensure that my clients and projects would be well looked-after in my absence.
I would have the baby before my main project concluded: a little challenging, but I found the perfect replacement and informed my client of the situation. I was confident that the remainder of the project would be executed according to plan. The client voiced concern about how this would affect their organization. Then, without any further communication, I was sacked. For a long time my confidence was shattered.
Brearly's story, she soon learned, was not unlike those of thousands of other British women throughout the country. On her website, women recall everything from jobs being yanked away during their maternity leave to feeling side lined if they did return. And sadly, some others tell stories of straight-up being made to feel like sh*t over having a baby. (Case in point: Earlier this month, a woman claimed that after she told her employer she was pregnant, her boss asked if she'd considered an abortion. SERIOUSLY.)
"Whilst I was still on maternity leave, I was told that my role was now redundant," wrote another anonymous woman, who said that she had been with her company for 11 years. "[I was told] they were replacing the role with a full time position, with a slightly different name, changing some of the job description ... exactly the role I had been doing until I went on leave. I was told I could apply for the role, but was strongly discouraged from doing so – and was told, not in so many words, that I wouldn’t get it."
The stories on PTS aren't just about unleashing venom on an employer that did you wrong, though. As Brearly wrote in her Guardian piece, she hopes the project really does some good for the countless women who find themselves harassed, discriminated against, and virtually squeezed out of the workforce every year. "This is not only a cathartic way to release some of the bruising and unfair experiences they have undergone, it is also a medium to shine a light on this systemic problem," wrote Brearly. "It is a way to open a public debate and ultimately aim to change common preconceptions about pregnant women whilst campaigning for more effective laws to protect them."
But things aren't just getting heated over in the U.K. Recent reports indicate that we're dealing with a good deal of pregnancy discrimination right here in the U.S., too. In fact, according to a 2013 report, there were 5,342 cases of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local Fair Employment Practices agencies (which was up over 1,300 since 1997). These numbers were such a surprise that last year, the EEOC was driven to update their pregnancy discrimination guidelines for employers the first time since 1983.
"Believe it or not, too many employers are still refusing to comply with pregnant workers’ requests for temporary accommodations at work based on medical needs," Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel of the National Women’s Law Center, told Fortune last year. "It still is the case that too many people think that pregnancy and motherhood are incompatible with work." (I don't know about you, but just reading that makes me seethe a bit.)
As for the future of things in the U.K., maybe things aren't totally dismal. Pregnancy discrimination is certainly a known problem — so much so that the EHRC has dedicated itself to raising awareness, launching the campaign #WorksForMe to educate employers on how not to treat their pregnant employees. (Sounds kind of ridiculous, but apparently it's a conversation that needs to happen.) In the meantime, though, it looks like the Brits will continue to file discrimination suits and hope things improve sooner rather than later. Until then, at least they can unleash their anger in epic vent threads on PTS.
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