When I wrote last year for International Women’s Day about ‘What happens to women’s careers when they get pregnant?’ I asked women who felt they’d been discriminated against because of pregnancy to get in touch. I was perhaps expecting one or two emails.
Over the past 12 months I’ve had around 20 emails, messages and communications from women working in book publishing, who found once they became pregnant, their career was impeded for one of four reasons:-
- Jobs held by women being made redundant before or during maternity leave.
- Women being told that their flexible working request ‘is unworkable’ on return from maternity leave.
- Women with children being blocked from promotion by those companies who say that the higher position ‘needs you to be in the office 5 days a week’, or informed that the promotion ‘requires twice as much travelling’ as the male predecessor.
- Women who are relieved from senior positions on return from maternity leave in exchange for flexible working.
I’ve received comments such as:-
‘I’m currently in the process of being made redundant whilst on maternity leave’
‘It’s very daunting and I was not expecting to be faced with this situation when I fell pregnant.’
‘I know of women who were granted part time working options only to be made redundant a year or so down the line.’
‘It’s quite clear that my employer discriminated against me when I requested flexible working’
‘Speaking to other freelancers I’ve realised we’re freelance because publishers (and the private sector at large) are unable to provide suitable flexible working options for us, that don’t incur a penalty (such as demotion, being stripped of management responsibilities.’
These comments are the tip of what seems to be a pretty big iceberg and it is obvious the problem runs far deeper.
Going forward, I’m aiming to gather meaningful data, all of which will be treated confidentially, so that we can continue to highlight what is a major issue for an industry employing so many women. [81.8% of respondents to the bookcareers.com Salary Survey 2013 were female.]
Please continue to contact me. All communications are completely confidential. When you do email, please supply the following information:-
Date of Maternity Leave (This will help identify newer issues, rather than older ones)
Type of Discrimination
e.g Redundancy during maternity leave, redundancy after, part-time working refused, demotion, other
and if you feel able, the name of the publisher.
I’m not quite sure yet where all of this will lead, but it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Happy International Women’s Day.