pregnancy

'You should prioritise growing your baby!' I was bullied at work for being pregnant.

It seems crazy to me that in today’s world pregnancy discrimination exists. 

That a young professional woman should be subjected to verbal abuse, slamming doors and silent treatment at work because of her personal choices. 

But it happened to me. Here's my story...

Side note: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

About two years ago there were movements in my team at work. 

A senior colleague of mine had been promoted, and the drama around who would be his replacement had commenced. 

My boss and line manager both approached me and asked me to apply for his position. 

I was torn. I was about to begin treatment to try for a second baby. Did I go after the promotion and put off my dream of a second baby for a few more years? Or did I stay in my current role and start the treatment as planned?

I was open about my situation with both my boss and line manager. Their response was surprising. They both still wanted me to apply. 

My line manager said that being pregnant was no reason to not apply for a job; that I was more than capable of doing the job and doing it well. 

"Don’t let your self-doubt stop you!" he said. "Plus, you don’t know when the treatment will be successful, you can’t put your life and career on hold."

I couldn't believe how progressive my workplace was! I was genuinely impressed by the level of support I was getting from two senior male colleagues. 

I spoke to my loved ones who all encouraged me to apply even though within a matter of weeks I could be pregnant.  

I bit the bullet and submitted my application. Within days I had an interview. The interview went well, but I was not offered the permanent position.  

I was told that the other applicants had more experience than me. I was disappointed and part of me wondered if my possible pregnancy was a deciding factor. 

On the upside my treatment soon worked, and I fell pregnant. 

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About a week later, in a strange turn of events, the candidate who got the job announced that they were unable to commence the role until the following year.

My boss asked if I would act in the position for the year or at least up until I needed to go on maternity leave.

How could I turn down such an opportunity?

I’ll be the first to say that there’s no way I was the perfect choice. I was quite young and inexperienced for the role. However, I was eager to learn and full of enthusiasm. 

Also, logically for my company, I was a cheap and easy solution. 

Our salaries were based on years of experience plus promotion award. So even with the promotion I would be barely making what my other colleagues where making in non-leadership roles. 

Anyway. The backlash was horrendous.

I still suffer PTSD from the treatment I received once the news broke that I would be 'acting' in the more senior role. Here are just some of the things colleagues told me:

  • I was "f**king selfish" for taking a position that I would not see out until the end of the year.

  • I had stolen the opportunity from someone else who was not pregnant.

  • I had brought instability to the team.

  • I only took the role so that I would get a higher maternity leave payment.

  • I should never have applied for a job if I was trying to conceive.

  • That my 'baby brain' would impair my ability to do the job.

  • That my priority should be growing that baby, not trying to advance in my career.

Even more shocking was the fact that most of these comments came from women, women of all ages and life stages. 

Some of these women were mothers and grandmothers. Some were strong single females who claimed to be feminists. 

Everyone at work is replaceable. You never know if an employee is going to move away, take a position elsewhere, change careers, retire, get sick, or go on long service leave. 

It is not an argument that you shouldn’t hire someone just because they’re going to have to take some time off after they have a baby. 

It’s discrimination.

At my first senior management meeting it was made very clear by everyone except my boss and line manager that I was not welcome. 

If I dared to offer a suggestion I was shut down, spoken over, or met with death stares.

The saddest thing about this is that they didn’t recognise the importance of having someone like me at the table. 

Of the 12 people sitting around the table, seven were men all over the age of 40. Only three of those men had children, two of whom were my boss and line manager. The other members were female, all over the age of 50, two with children, two without. 

On that major decision-making table I was the youngest, at 29, and the only female under the age of 50. In a female heavy industry that statistic was just plain sad.

It would seem that for a young female to be in a senior role, they must be without children, married to the job and happy to stay that way. 

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I did my best at the job but was filled with doubt and constant thoughts that I wasn’t good enough because I was pregnant. I made mistakes; mistakes I probably wouldn't have made without all that pressure. 

I had staff actively get up and leave the office whenever I entered, storm out, give me the silent treatment. I was verbally abused and left out of vital conversations.

Part of me knew that taking an opportunity whilst pregnant would bring some backlash but I truly had no idea that it would be this bad.

So, would I do it all again? Would I take an opportunity knowing I was pregnant? Yes.

Why?

Because you should never, ever be made to feel like you are unworthy just because you have working ovaries, are growing a baby, or trying to conceive. 

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you should feel ashamed for taking an opportunity. Do not be side lined or fearful to apply for jobs. Stand proud and break down those barriers. 

It’s not okay that it's unheard of for someone pregnant to be promoted. It’s not okay that you should be made to feel guilty for chasing a career goal whilst chasing a private goal to start a family. 

You owe no one the right to dictate your career aspirations or family timeline. You have the right to work free from discrimination. 

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo from Getty.

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