When I was about 20 weeks’ pregnant with #1, one of my colleagues decided to try and predict the sex of our baby. I am well aware that the conversation was well intentioned, but as you will see, it was unbelievably inappropriate. It went like this: Him: “My grandmother taught me how to predict the sex of a baby. And I’m always right.” Me: “Really?” (skeptic). Him: “Yes. Stand up. Turn around. Ok. It is a girl.” Me: “How can you tell?” (Yes, I was asking myself why, especially in my capacity as General Counsel of an ASX company, I was engaging.) Him: “Because you’re skin has broken out and your arse is starting to spread.” Coupled with comments from my pilates instructor that I was “the biggest pregnant woman he’d ever seen”, one might say it was just lucky I was comfortable in my own skin. But the reality is, objectification and discriminatory comments towards pregnant women are never OK. Of course, through our work coaching women, we know that these comments are not isolated. Here are some others we’ve heard recently.
Time To Stop…
- Bemoaning the fact that your team member has just told you they are pregnant.
- Asking them whether the pregnancy was planned or an accident.
- Asking them whether they would consider an abortion so they can get their job back. (Yes, I know it seems unbelievable, but it’s happened!)
- Asking them how long they plan to take for parental leave as soon as they tell you they are pregnant.
- Responding, when they ask you for alternate duties for workplace and safety reasons, that you will have to reduce their pay because they will be performing a different role.
- Commenting on how big/small/round they are.
- Telling them what work they can and can’t do now that they are pregnant.
- Telling them that it would not be in their best interests to apply for a promotion because it will take them away from their family.
- Sacking them!
- Telling them that their role is being made redundant when you have backfilled it with a younger person who has no carer responsibilities.
Time To Start…
- Congratulating them (many, many times over for contributing to the human gene pool and bringing another human into the world who will pay taxes to help support you in retirement).
- Asking them how they are feeling.
- Asking them about their professional vision.
- Asking them how you can best support them at work.
- Asking them how flexibility might be implemented to accommodate their needs, as well as those of the business.
- Reassuring them that a parental leave contractor is replacing their role.
- Acknowledging the transition to and from parental leave.
- Speaking up for them when they are absent, and ensuring they are not invisible.
- Asking them how they would like to remain connected to the workplace while on parental leave.
- Reminding them of their achievements and contributions, and affirming their identity as a valued member of the team.