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That Mother Nature; she is one clever lady!

Pregnancy and motherhood is the most natural and wonderful life changing events a woman will go through.  When you are pregnant for the first time there is a blissful ignorance of what is about to come. It's the most beautiful, romantic time and it's all hope and happiness.  You can't quite imagine what it's going to be like, but you know it's going to be beautiful! You feel your baby move and your heart is filled with love and excitement and you haven't even met them yet but you already know that you are carrying your world with you. It is not coincidence we all feel this way; it is by design.  Right from the word go their is a powerful force responsible; she is called Mother Nature.
When your baby arrives, and let's face it ladies, labour is one hell of an eye-opener! It's nothing that you could have imagined and it's hard to describe. Mother nature makes it so you can just about cope, you can bear it, so that you will be so filled with relief an…

Pregnancy Discrimination In this Modern World? Surely Not!

Welcome to the modern world.  A world where being a woman is no longer a disadvantage.  Where we are all equal and all treated the same.  Well that is the world I thought I was entering when I left university feeling empowered, feeling excited for my future and full to bursting with feminism. Nothing would hold me back, I could do and be whatever I wanted.

Naivety is a beautiful thing.  It allows us to see the world in the way it should be without the harshness of reality.  The feminist in me that was cultivated by a strong mother and a father who taught me that I could dream big as long as I worked hard still is in there even though my recent experience has shown me that injustice and prejudice still exists.  My Dad was right of course I can dream big, and I can and have proven my worth ten times over.  I have had a senior management position in a global company, I have not one but two degrees and I have a string of qualifications to my name.  I have stood shoulder to shoulder with my male counterparts and shone bright, done well for myself.  But what I have learnt is that equality in the workplace is always championed loudly; yet in the background sexism continues to be in the undertones of most businesses.

As a woman I have been subjected to bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and discrimination.  Not just from colleagues but from management too. And I am not alone.  The sad reality of it is though the women in my industry tend to laugh off the harassment, try and toughen up to bullying, try and stand your ground without seeming to care that you are being treated differently to your male colleagues.  You learn that to argue a point with passion will get you labelled 'emotional'; to challenge a male manager in a big meeting makes him feel threatened and lays you open to rebuke so instead you get smart, you learn to communicate carefully, you watch your back and you laugh off the innuendos and the smarmy comments. You learn to accept it as a way of life.  I work in a male dominated industry but one that I am comfortable in.  I am highly qualified, intelligent and effective in this industry.  I have the ability to multi-task, crisis manage, problem solve and communicate well, I understand the processes and the requirements of my job and I always deliver and often exceed my targets.  Yet this is not enough.  I am also a woman and my role as a woman is also to carry the baby that my husband and I created. I earnt the same salary as my husband, I had a successful career but whether I realised it at the time or not when we chose to have a baby I also ultimately would have to decide whether I was going to continue to have a career in the immediate aftermath of bringing a child into the world.

I work in the food manufacturing industry - one that usually involves long manufacturing shifts and high pressure, fast paced careers.  When my baby came I knew getting part time work in this industry would be nigh on impossible  but what I didn't count on is that my employer would not be able to offer me the part time hours I needed to make that careful balance of being there enough for my child and affording childcare work. I didn't intend to always be part time, just for about 4-6 months and then I would get back to full time hours and continue to progress my career. Thinking about it I should have known - throughout the pregnancy the (incidentally female) business owner was downright rude to me.  Always making comments about how inconvenient it was; they waited for me to go on maternity leave to advertise the promotion I had been working towards which has effectively ended my opportunities to progress in that company, they even told me there wouldn't be a job in my department if I came back part time before I even finished making me feel incredibly stressed, she would introduce me to new colleagues and customers with my name and then 'She got pregnant' with a raised eyebrow, leaving me embarrassed as I quickly gave my job title as I shook their hands with a blush. She even told me she wouldn't be employing any more young women like me who are just going to get pregnant.  And all of this I just took - I shouldn't have - the feminist in me knows I should have stood up and called her out.  Put in a grievance, forced the issue and fought for the equality and freedom from prejudice but I wanted to get through a difficult pregnancy with a healthy baby.  My priorities had changed.  So when I was told that I could come back part time and could discuss it with my manager I was feeling a little apprehensive, did I really want to go back there where I had been made to feel so second class; but as a woman we are not only the ones who have to bear and birth the child, often we are required to work again too.  Because the cost of living continues to rise and because we can't afford to lose the income we had worked so hard to get before the baby came along.  The pressure to be a mother and also a provider is intense. Not surprisingly this company won't be flexible around my childcare hours and if I am part time they will only give me a 12 month contract and my role is basically being reduced to an administrative role - effectively I feel like I am starting my probation all over again. It almost feels like I am being punished for having a baby, sidelined in the business and being pushed out.  So I have made the tough decision to ditch the security of a job I know and move on.  I risk losing my career because I am more than likely going to have to take a part time job outside of the industry I have worked in; making the return in the future even harder.  Yet I am a strong woman, a mother and a career woman and I know that despite it all I will get back up, dust myself off and come back stronger than ever. My path is not clear now, it may be taking a slight diversion, but wherever it leads I know it will be OK because I still dream big despite those who would see my womb as a shackle holding me back or that it devalues me as an employee.  If you can't see past that and fail to see all that I gave, all that I did, all that I have achieved for your company well frankly you don't deserve to be in my future. Equality is not a right we all have; it is a right we all still have to fight for.


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