In the aftermath of the Spitzer scandal, many feminists chastized Silda for opting out of her high-powered corporate law job to tend the hearth, but perhaps the blame should be placed on a system that often discriminates against pregnant women and mothers in the first place. According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, in the past year, discrimination claims from pregnant women to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission have risen 14%. While there is a Pregnancy Discrimination Act , most working women are shocked when they realize how little it covers. " The Journal observed a local gathering of more than 100 working mothers recently where an advertising exec said, "I thought we were protected. Then I find out we can be fired while we're pregnant, employers can refuse to hire us — what exactly are our rights?"
The Journal breaks pregnant women's rights down thusly: Employers can fire, lay off and refuse to hire knocked up ladies, but they have to provide ample proof that they held men to the same standards. They also have to provide maternity leave, as they would provide leave for any other medical issue, but in 48 of the 50 states, that leave doesn't have to be paid (readers in California and Washington State, you're the lucky ones).
And then, many women have to deal with blowhard employers like Sir Alan Sugar, the CEO-star of the British version of the Apprentice, who told the Times of London that, "Companies have no divine duty to help with childcare. Companies employ people. It's the Government's responsibility to provide childcare. You pay a person a salary and they cut their cloth accordingly." Sugar also added that female bosses are more likely to discriminate against female employees, because they are "more ruthless than men. They are more conscious of not employing other women because they feel they're not going to get the value of work out of them."
In Linda Hirshman's infamous American Prospect article about the "opt-out revolution," she suggests that if women want real equality, they must major in (mostly non-liberal arts) subjects that prepare them for the job market , make money, as money is "the marker of success in a market economy," and marry a man with bleak economic prospects, as he will be more likely to stay home with the babies. It's not that I don't agree with Hirshman — I think she's pretty much on the money — but I personally don't want to do any of those things, even though I acknowledge that I'm not helping feminism by being an English major who works in a low-rent field. Many self-proclaimed feminists feel the same way, so would it be more useful to organize and change the pregnancy laws instead of berating ourselves for making the choices that Silda, and so many of the rest of us, might one day make?
Why Stand By? [New York Magazine]
More Women Pursue Claims Of Pregnancy Discrimination [WSJ]
Women Bosses Are More Likely To Discriminate Against Mothers, Says Sir Alan Sugar [Times of London]