Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

BC Professor Examines Pregnancy in the Workplace

Judy Clair, an Associate Professor in the Department of Management and Organization in CSOM, has co-authored a Harvard Business Review study on the treatment and importance of pregnant workers. In light of the fact that women represent nearly half of the workforce, the appropriate treatment of women in the workplace, during and in the months following their pregnancy, is a paramount issue.

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The study involved weekly surveys of working women throughout their pregnancies and were followed up 9 months after the delivery of their babies with further surveys. The study linked statistical data analysis along with open ended discussion, as a main concern of the study was “how the help women received influenced their views of themselves,” Clair explained.

The study’s results highlighted that it is not a lack of help that could cause women to quit their jobs, but the type of help they receive and how it can influence their opinion of themselves as capable workers.

The study states that “women are more inclined to quit when they feel unable to manage competing demands,” which stems from them not receiving the right kind of assistance.

Clair stipulates that “even helpful help can send a subtle message to women that they are weaker or more vulnerable during pregnancy,” resulting in an undermined sense of ability to manage work demands.

As for BC, maternity leave entails eight weeks of regular pay, and a following four weeks of unpaid leave. In Clair’s personal experience, she expressed how “the university was super supportive of my needs during [pregnancy], and I am impressed with how I see other pregnant faculty treated as well.”

At present, many companies and institutions are making strides in helping women plan for their maternity leaves and return to work.  Despite this, Clair recommends that “institutions of higher education (BC included) might benefit from becoming more proactive at the institutional level by providing this kind of benefit,” to help increase retention of women workers who experience pregnancy.