‘My Coworkers Underestimate Me Because I’m Pregnant’

“I am sometimes confused as a cat, not as a lion. So, some are surprised when I call out bulls— and have a no-nonsense attitude. Is that uncommon? I don’t know.”

The above quote was said by Pooja Sankar, CEO of Piazza, a discussion site for college courses. The former Google engineer is pregnant and said this during a USA Today sponsored roundtable for female entrepreneurs. She brought up the interesting point that her employees may not expect her to be tough anymore because she is pregnant. Do coworkers and managers tend to think your management or work behavior will change when you are pregnant? Do they automatically assume you won’t be able to do as much or you will soften up somehow? We talked with some women who felt their coworkers behavior changed towards them when they became pregnant, and not in a good way.

Mimi West told The Grindstone:

“Things were great at work until I got pregnant with twins. As soon as the news spread, everybody treated me differently. My two supervisors actually gave me more “dirty” tasks than before, such as scrubbing grime off of chairs they had moved out of their old office. One of them even told me, “You are a ticking time bomb. It’s only a matter of time before you’re out of here.

I felt as though they were trying to make the job so unbearable that I would quit earlier than anticipated, which I ended up doing.

I considered pressing charges for discrimination. To this day, I still have a paper trail to document how things changed after I got pregnant, though I have not taken action.”

New mom S. Lynn Cooper told The Grindstone:

“My son Ralph is 15 weeks old today. I am currently on a government contract and once I announced that I was pregnant I began to have duties relinquished from me or people would exclude me from meetings because of my pregnancy. Doing this made me very upset as I felt like I had the plaque rather than bringing a new life into this world.”

Women are increasingly tending to work during pregnancy. A recent study reports that more first-time mothers are working late into their pregnancy and then returning to the office soon after the baby arrives, according to the Census Bureau. Among those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008, the portion who worked during pregnancy reached 66%, compared with 44% for those with a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 82% of those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008 worked until one month or less before their child’s birth, compared with 73% for those with a first birth between 1991 and 1995. Those rates are up from about 35% for a first birth between 1961 and 1965.

Photo: wavebreakmedia ltd /Shutterstock.com

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