A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Pregnant Women Are Targets of Discrimination

By Mason Spirit contributor on October 1, 2008

Despite federal legislation, pregnant women may still face judgment and obstacles to getting jobs. Such were the findings of  two studies by Mason’s Eden King, Rice University’s Michelle Hebl, and their collaborators. The research results, which explored different interpersonal reactions that pregnant women face, were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

In one study, 81 adults evaluated a pregnant or  nonpregnant applicant for traditionally male or female jobs. Those who provided evaluations for jobs traditionally held by men were more judgmental toward the pregnant women than when evaluating the same applicant for positions traditionally held by women.

In another study, research assistants entered 110 retail stores and followed a script in which they either applied for a job or browsed for a gift, sometimes wearing a prosthesis that made them appear pregnant. The study found that the women who appeared pregnant and asked about job opportunities faced significantly more hostility than when the same women did not appear pregnant and inquired about jobs.

The study also showed that pregnant women who stayed within more traditional bounds—shopping—experienced overtly patronizing behavior.

“This research highlights the challenges facing working mothers and suggests that current policies might not be as effective as hoped,” says King.

–Tara Laskowski, MFA ’05

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