Friday, November 27, 2009

Pregnancy and the Workplace: Stereotypes and Benevolent Sexism

NY Times: Expecting a Baby, but Not the Stereotypes, by Eilene Zimmerman:

Pregnant Q. You recently became pregnant and expect to continue working through the pregnancy and after maternity leave. Although the initial reaction has been positive, is it possible you will face negative repercussions in the office?

A. It is possible, said Jack Tuckner, a partner in Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, a law firm in Manhattan specializing in women’s workplace rights. That’s because pregnant women are often stigmatized and stereotyped and can elicit unwanted paternalistic protection, Mr. Tuckner said.

For example, he said, someone might think it’s best “if the pregnant woman isn’t included — she can’t stay out late, can’t knock back martinis with the team and then work until 11 p.m. and she has to use the bathroom all the time.” A pregnant woman might also be excluded from e-mail lists, meetings or business trips.

Eden B. King, an assistant professor of psychology at George Mason University, said that women interviewed for studies she has done on workplace pregnancy and discrimination reported feeling excluded from new projects that would help their career development.

“They are seen as already being out of the game,” she said. “Some women report experiencing a form of benevolent sexism, where they are treated like a child who needs to be protected or people pat their stomach.”  . . .

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