The terms paid maternity leave and paid vacation have been circulating around the news cycle as the primary elections swiftly approach. Candidates like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both have advocated for paid leave policy in the United States, which is great, but is policy enough? A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development on paid leave entitlements found that the United States is the only advanced economy offering zero paid maternity leave, while countries like the United Kingdom offer up to 39 weeks of paid leave for new mothers. Although women in the United Kingdom have the option of taking nine months paid away from work to care for their newborns, the website Pregnant Then Screwed is proof that policy is not enough to bring equality and justice to parents in the workforce.
Pregnant Then Screwed is a platform for women to anonymously share stories of pregnancy discrimination ending or jarring their careers. The site started in the U.K. with creator Joeli Brearley, and since has garnered hundreds of stories about women who are blatantly ushered out of their jobs, left in a pile of debt or bullied out of the workplace once they announce their pregnancy. The website states that more than 54,000 women in the U.K. are forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy, or the aftermath of having a child.
Brearley's decision to launch the site began with her own unfortunate experience of being "sacked," when she disclosed her pregnancy to her clients. Working as a self-employed project manager, Brearley wrote in The Guardian that she had found a replacement to work on her main project during her maternity leave, relayed the situation to her client, and then without further notice was let go.
"If a woman still works for the company that has treated her unfairly, she may feel that with the added responsibility of child-raising she cannot afford to lose her job or damage good relationships with her colleagues," Brearley wrote in The Guardian.
Thus, Pregnant Then Screwed was born giving women a voice to share their experiences in hopes they can expose the extreme injustices their employers have committed toward them.
Pregnant Then Screwed sites for the U.S. and Spain launched last month, highlighting the fact that pregnancy discrimination is an international problem.
Women in the United States are supposed to be protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act from firing and layoffs or changes to pay, job assignments, promotions etc., because of pregnancy. However, employers are always able to find some wicked loophole to drag pregnant women through the mud. A more tangible promise to benefit parents in the U.S. would be paid maternity (and paternity!) leave, but that does not solve the problem. The U.K.'s seemingly great system is still leaking misogyny all over the women of their country. Same goes for Spain and its 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. Clearly something isn't working if so many women are taking to the Internet to share their tales of inequity.
Like most social movements, policy is just the first step. Hopefully Pregnant Then Screwed provides the anecdotes necessary to start a cultural shift, and get employers listening.
Experienced pregnancy discrimination? Visit Pregnant Then Screwed to share your story.
More from BUST