A popular U.K. confessional site that went viral this summer for highlighting workplace discrimination has officially crossed the pond. Pregnant Then Screwed has arrived in the U.S., and the American version is identical to the original, functioning as an anonymous confessional blog on which women can share their stories of pregnancy- and postpartum-related discrimination. It's a disturbing reality that's far more present than you might think. While the site just had its soft launch on Sept. 1, it's already receiving submissions. And judging by the stories so far, it's safe to say it's been needed over here just as badly as it was in the U.K.
But according to Joeli Brearley, who spearheaded the project last spring, she had no idea the site would take off like it did. "When I launched PTS in the U.K., I had only considered the U.K. angle, but stories and praise for the campaign started coming in from countries all over the world," she tells Bustle. "Following press and media attention in the U.K., the campaign was picked up by some of the media in the U.S., with a few considering whether the U.S. needed a similar site." She has also launched a Spanish version of Pregnant Then Screwed, which is steadily building its own catalog of stories.
As for the American version, Brearley has high hopes. "I would really like to see women in the U.S. get behind this campaign. I realize the structures and systems for maternity are very different to what they are in the U.K., and I believe women in the U.S. need even more support to have careers and children. It shocks me that 43 percent of highly qualified women in the U.S. leave their jobs when they have children — that is not good for women [or] the economy or society as a whole." She also adds that she's eager to have U.S. women join the global conversation, and stresses that the site is completely anonymous, so contributors needn't fear reprisal from their employers.
In the U.S., thousands of pregnancy discrimination complaints are filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission every year, and that rate continues to climb. And these are just the cases that are reported. Read through the anonymous stories already flooding the new site, and you'll soon see a pattern emerge: Many women don't fight back when they're fired, most likely because they're a little too busy with that newborn of theirs. Factor in the cost of a lawyer and the stress that goes along with it, and it's no surprise that many of these stories have slipped through the cracks. Well, at least until now.
One anonymous story begins with this shocking intro:
I was told to ‘consider whether my life choices (ie 3 children) were really compatible with this company’
Another woman's case was more insidious ...
I immediately noticed a change in the attitude of one of my co-workers. He was the person who managed our projects and he immediately started to ask me questions about how I was managing my time. It got to the point where he was asking me to document every minute of my day.
... But it ended up costing her not just her job, but her health, and the health of her children:
[I] ended up having my blood pressure go through the roof, resulting in my twins being born a month early. I had NO recourse because the company size made them immune from any legal action for discrimination nor were they required to hold to the family medical leave act. I had to walk away knowing they had not only robbed me of my job, but almost robbed me of my children and my life, and they would get away with it. That is the sort of country I live in.
This woman is so defeated that you'll wish you could just reach out hug her:
We are still faced with the choice between working, or children. One, or the other. At least in the 50’s, people were honest about that choice. At least then a mother could tell her daughter that college doesn’t matter, except to find a man, preferably a rich one. It’s not a fun truth, but at least it’s honest. “You can be anything” except if you’re pregnant or a mother.
Unbelievably, there are still people out there who don't believe that pregnancy discrimination is a problem in the United States. And until the problem is recognized, it certainly won't be solved. Pregnant Then Screwed aims to give these women the voice they deserve. You can check out the site yourself to read more stories, or to submit your own.
Image: Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa/Flickr; Fotolia (2)