Our culture seems obsessed with pregnancy given all the fascination over celebrity “bump watch”, celebrity post-baby bodies and all the nonstop studies and articles about pregnancy each week. Still, it’s still taboo to be pregnant in the workplace or while launching a company.
Yahoo Parenting posted a piece recently about women who run their own businesses who hid their pregnancies while looking for funding or opportunities.
It featured Talia Goldstein who is the CEO for a matchmaking startup called Three Day Rule that recently entered a lucrative partnership with Match.com. But before realizing tremendous success, Goldstein explained in an essay in Fortune that while looking for investors, she was “ashamed for getting pregnant” because her industry “looks down on it.”
Goldstein, who had appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank heard comment after comment to give her that impression. One person told her “a pregnant CEO/founder is going to fail her company.” and another remarked “it’s a huge red flag when the founder of a company is pregnant.” Someone else retorted: “Honestly, I’d never invest in a company with a pregnant CEO.”
When Goldstein, who once worked as a producer at E! Entertainment, got pregnant she made a conscious decision to not alienate investors by hiding her pregnancy from friends, colleagues and even her business partner.
“I must have looked ridiculous,” she wrote about going as far as wearing a bulky trench coat in 80 degree weather. “But I knew that I had a better chance of raising money looking ridiculous than I would looking pregnant.”
Now that the mom to son Max is pregnant again, she plans to make it easier for her mainly-female employees so they can feel comfortable to start a family when they’re ready without fear of retribution for doing so.
Yahoo cited a Cornell University study which concluded that mothers are viewed as less competent and committed than fathers, even though the evidence supports that moms outperform their childless counterparts.
Despite the fact that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) has updated its guidelines in 2014 to state that employers cannot fire, refuse to hire, or demote a woman sole on the fact she is pregnant, many employers don’t follow the suggestions and women too do not know their rights.
“I hid my pregnancy at work until my third trimester — thankfully, my bump wasn’t that big,” one anonymous New York City-based copywriter told Yahoo Parenting. “I was a contractor, and I worried that pregnancy would cloud all my other attributes, despite working at a female-dominated company that made products for women.”adding, “Once, in the bathroom, my co-worker heard me throwing up from morning sickness, and I pretended I’d had a late night. I figured it was better to be hung-over at work than pregnant.”
A Los Angeles-based psychologist chimed in about why she waited until her third trimester to announce her pregnancy: “I had just been hired into a tenured university position, and I was worried people would question my competency to take on new responsibilities.”
It’s an unfortunate reality for many women and it doesn’t seem like it will get better.