How to get a job when you’re pregnant

You’re hired.
You’re hired.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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During the job interview process, there are many insightful personal tidbits you might consider sharing with a prospective employer.

“I’m pregnant,” likely isn’t one of them.

Based on pretty much everything anyone says, you’d be smart not to include that one. But if you play your cards right, sharing the information that you’ve got a bun in the oven with a prospective or new job doesn’t have to be a career killer.

The numbers are not on our side

It’s true; the evidence is stacked against women who decide to have children in our early or mid-careers. We already make 20% less than men, without even accounting for children. Even more startling is the fact that those of us women who have children make 20% less than women who don’t have children.

In addition to making less money, there are loads of accounts from women about the very many, and very real, ways in which they have been denigrated and passed over for promotions when they’re pregnant on the job, or when they tell people they are a mom.

It’s close to impossible to measure the number of women who didn’t get a job because they volunteered that they were pregnant during the interview process, or else that tell-tale baby bump was evident from their appearance.

Just recently, two anchors at New York City’s local news channel NY1 sued parent company Charter Communications for age, gender and pregnancy discrimination. Michelle Greenstein was fired upon returning from maternity leave, and Thalia Perez was fired during her third trimester after speaking about how she had been denied opportunities because she was pregnant.

This is July 2019, not July 1959. I wish we were all more surprised that this kind of rampant discrimination still goes down.

The comments on social in response to the NY1 story were equally horrifying. TV personality Carey Reilly relayed that when she told her agent she was pregnant, he left. “I’m pregnant, not dead,” she told him. “Same thing,” he replied.

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I’m writing this article because somehow, I beat the odds.

Not only did I get a job even though I disclosed that I was pregnant, I ended up getting promoted right after returning from parental leave.

I admit, I was surprised when it came time to accept a position and I disclosed that I was pregnant—and my employer didn’t balk. There was no wince, no fake grin, no subversive plot to rescind the offer for that non-utero candidate, or relegate me to a more menial position.

This wasn’t entirely based on luck. I’m sharing my (unfortunately, statistically atypical) experience so that we can keep proving that pregnancy is not a barrier to success.

Do your homework

For one, I did a lot of research into company cultures before deciding to apply for jobs. I was lucky that I had a stable job at the time that I was looking, so I wasn’t desperate, and I had the luxury of enough time to plan on my side.

Given the low employment rates, particularly in the professional sector, it’s currently a job-seekers market. When circumstances allow it, we would all be wise to take advantage of that. That means if you’re looking for a new or better opportunity, you can and should be selective about who you want to work for.

Take the time you need to answer some crucial questions. Do they have inclusive policies? Do employees have good work/life balance? Does a firm have female executives?

It can also help to establish some baselines for yourself. I researched potential employers on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, and vowed only to consider companies that had CEO ratings of 95% and higher. I also only short-listed ones that had positive comments that were consistent and which out-weighed the negative ones.

A company that treats employees well and is family-friendly is more likely to hire someone who is pregnant, treat them with dignity and respect, and advance them when they’re out on leave, than a company that is notorious for working their employees around the clock.

Be honest

I wasn’t yet pregnant during the early interview process. As strange luck happened, I found out the same day I got the job offer. Most people, for many valid reasons, are wary of talking about a pregnancy so early on.

If you’re talking with a company that has strong family values, I found out that being honest from the outset can create trust from the very beginning with your manager. And that initial trust can serve you well in many other instances in the future.

I believe I was lucky here, in that my new manager happened to be a mom, so she got it. She didn’t flinch. She congratulated me, and I was able to start my new job without having to panic over what she would think when she inevitably found out I was pregnant.

Leverage your connections

No matter who you are, it helps to know someone who works at the organization you’re considering joining so you have a track record, however small, from outside the organization.

Once you set your sights on a company, it’s a good idea to network to establish a positive rapport with someone who may have worked with someone you know, or perhaps attended the same school or program as you, or who you know through some other degree of connection.

This is no guarantee to getting a job, but when you’re job-hunting in a competitive world, and when you’re dealing with something that many employers could see as a reason to not hire you, proving your interpersonal value bears particular weight.

I was lucky to know someone at the company where I took my job. I interviewed with a different department, and certainly would not have got the job if I hadn’t been the right candidate, but my contact was there to vouch for me.

That meant I wasn’t a complete stranger coming in on day one and saying, “I’m pregnant!” Whether it was actually useful, or mostly just helped boost my confidence, I was glad there was someone who could help quash any concerns people might have had, someone to at least say, “Don’t worry, I’ve worked with her before, and she’s worth it.”

Prove yourself

The “work twice as hard for half the recognition” trope is tiresome, I know. But it helped me once I was hired.

Before I arrived for my first day, I read voraciously about the brand. I prepared to come in and work as hard as I needed to, to buck the “mommy penalty” trend and to prove that hiring a pregnant woman wasn’t something to regret.

I worked harder and smarter than I ever had. I said yes to a lot, and produced more than everyone around me. It wasn’t easy, especially when I was first-trimester exhausted and queasy.

But because I put some big wins on the map right away, I helped establish myself really quickly as a reliable and high-potential employee, despite the gamete growing inside me. This came in especially handy when I needed to come in late for doctor’s appointments leading up to the pending months-long leave.

In the end, I don’t believe all the hustle and muscle was necessary for me to be seen as valuable. And ideally, it wouldn’t be. But I needed to feel assured that I was not Allison, the pregnant employee who happened to still do a good job. I was Allison, the rock-star employee who happened to be pregnant.

Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. There’s no denying that we still live in a culture where getting pregnant is treated as a potential impediment to professional success. Proving ourselves is a lot of work, but I think we can change the culture from within, starting by investing our talents and energy into businesses that support us. I wish it were easier for women to not let the decision to have a child influence pursuing career goals. Men don’t for the most part, and nor should we.

They say we’re getting closer to men being able to carry babies to term, and I can’t wait to see how quickly parental policies will change when that happens. But until then, I’m hoping for a day when we don’t have to work twice as hard to prove that women don’t have to let pregnancy or motherhood get in the way of our dream jobs.