The Motherhood Dilemma
Brewer is like many professional women who decide to delay motherhood because of their careers. “I made a conscious decision not to get married before I turned 30 and reached milestones in my TV news career, which delayed having children,” says Brewer. “In my career, I once moved five times in seven years. I was focused on moving up, not necessarily finding a mate and having children.”
Delaying children and marriage helped further her career. “I probably wouldn’t have accepted certain career opportunities to move to new markets and cover news,” she says. “Thanks to those decisions, I made better career moves and earned a Southeast Regional Emmy award for my station’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina.”
Ileaa Swift, owner of Arkansas-based global travel agency Swift Travel Deals, is a 29-year-old African-American woman who has been married for seven years. She made the conscious decision to not have kids until she was 100 percent ready, without any second thoughts. “Two years ago, I started my business and since then it has become a tremendous part of my life taking up a ton of my time,” explains Swift. “Deciding to not have children in order to focus on my own life was a very conscious decision. My husband and I have worked extremely hard to build our foundation and I don’t believe that I would have been able to achieve as much personal success and goals if I had had children.”
For Swift, she wants to reach a point in her career where she can shift her focus. “I would want to focus on my children and be 100 percent present in their lives; running a business would limit either the business or my time with my children. I do want to have children but with women over 40 having children more frequently (Halle Berry, etc.), I think that waiting to have children is okay,” she says.
It’s a tough call for many career women, especially since some are punished in the workplace for getting pregnant. Unfortunately, pregnancy has damaged some careers for some women as there is still a major backlash from employers. Even today, there are lawsuits by women who say they were unfairly fired because they became pregnant. And some employers may feel that women will no longer work as hard once they become mothers.
“Whether or not to have children is a topic that all professional women eventually must deal with. Motherhood is something that many women look forward to, but the disruption in day-to-day activities is a difficult truth that we must come to face,” notes career counselor Pauline Delaney, a certified resume expert.
Of course, it is illegal for companies to punish women who become pregnant while on the job, but it does happen –and more often than it should. According to the EEOC, “The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment. If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.”
“While it’s difficult to find a company or business that will come out and claim they do not like to hire women who plan on starting a family or women who are expecting, it’s impossible to deny the fact that in some of the fastest moving and most highly competitive industries, men are hired much more often than women,” says Delaney.
Women have some recourse, but it can be a difficult fight. “While there are plenty of legal protections in place, both on the federal and state level, unfortunately there are plenty of loopholes, too. The only real way for a woman to feel comfortable with starting a family, as far as her career is concerned, is to work for an ethical employer that they have a good working relationship with,” notes Delaney. “The negative of this is, of course, that it might not be as easy as it sounds. The benefit, however, is that regardless of whether a woman wants to start a family or not, working for an ethical employer tends to pay off in the long run in more ways than one.”
(This column was first written by Brown for the December 22nd 2014 Network Journal)