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Women still face institutionalized workplace discrimination

The wage gap between men and women has received considerable attention in Massachusetts and across the country lately, but there are some who claim that women are being unfairly discriminated against for a surprising reason. New information indicates that women often face workplace discrimination for the mere possibility that they could one day become pregnant. This so-called pre-pregnancy penalty might be especially damaging for women in certain career fields.

Because of ongoing discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace, some female graduate students even put off having children out of fear that their career will negatively be affected, a sentiment that is often not shared by their male peers. This problem is especially prevalent in the sciences. Because of the fast-paced nature of the science fields, women tend to be kept away from the front of projects out of fear that a possible pregnancy might jeopardize the project's pace.

Mothers, too, tend to face ongoing discrimination at work. One expert from the National Women's Law Center pointed out that most working mothers are expected to meet a much higher standard than their co-workers. What happens when they fail to meet that standard? More often than not, they are disciplined. One of the policy advisers with the American Association of University Women says that discrimination against women for their potential to become pregnant is an institutionalized problem that affects much of the decision making in business.

While some industries -- such as the tech industry -- appear to be rising to the occasion and addressing this type of workplace discrimination, it is still a widespread issue for many women in Massachusetts. Most women still stand to lose approximately 4 percent of their lifetimes earnings every time they have a child. This loss is not felt by fathers and creates unfair and unjust environments in the workplace. The discrimination might be institutionalized, but workers who have been wrongly discriminated against because of their gender can help fight that bias by taking action against a discriminating employer.

Source: NBC News, "'Motherhood Penalty' Can Affect Women Who Never Even Have a Child", Safia Samee Ali, April 11, 2016

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