From experiencing discrimination at the societal as well as the familial level, women in Asia have a hard time negotiating and claiming their self-worth. Generally perceived to be the weaker sex, with meager authoritative posturing, they are embroiled in an existential struggle for adequate representation. This situation gets accentuated when it comes to Asia’s working women since the claims for an equal and inclusive workplace experience for women are nothing but a fallacious reality. Especially for the ones who combat pregnancy discrimination, by having to fight a battle twice hard, they have to establish themselves through an engaged manifestation of their work ethic and skill set.
What Exactly is Pregnancy Discrimination?
In Simplistic terms, Pregnancy discrimination refers to the biased treatment of women because of their pregnancy. Even though International Labor Organization’s Convention#183 on maternity protection calls out for non-discriminatory posturing towards pregnant employees, whereby employers are disallowed to terminate the employment of pregnant women or distinguish on grounds of their maternity, it is a reality that happens till date.
This type of discrimination manifests itself in certain ways. For instance, a pregnant woman may be discriminated against by not being hired for a job. Or she may be dismissed during her pregnancy on unjustifiable claims. At times she may be subjected to demotion or unfavorable transfers, that are only brought about by her health condition. In other cases, she may even be bypassed for promotion or potential transfer just because of her assumed incapacity, her pregnancy triggers in her employers.
General Beliefs and Assumptions
Despite living in the 21st Century, today a pregnant employee is at a greater risk of being a victim to typical beliefs and assumptions surrounding her health condition. Let’s have a look at the common assumptions she has to address at the workplace, simply because she is pregnant.
It all starts with the misconstrued perceptions of the employers regarding the efficacy and efficiency of their pregnant employers. Believing them to be unable to cast a perfect balance between work and home, many employers tend to categorize pregnant employees as inefficient. For them, the employee’s pregnancy signals the idea that she is now unable to function credibly well. To them now the pregnant employee displays health risks which means that she is professionally inadequate for the tasks assigned and hence is replaceable now. Instead of such ushering in such a biased atmosphere, the employers must have clear and consistent policies concerning staff recruitment, maternity leave, transfers, performance appraisals, bonus systems, and all. A culture of understanding and openness is going to prove to be a panacea in such a scenario.
Though societal trends suggest a significant change in perspectives when it comes to women going out of the precincts of their home to develop a career in their chosen field of work, yet there are still cases where developing a career for women is not appreciated. This is because of the long-held perception that a woman’s place is at home. Her ultimate responsibility lies in taking care of household responsibilities. Now, it is not wrong for a woman to devote her time to household work, if and when she wants. But to circumstantially be coerced into it, is definitely problematic. Since when this becomes the sole determinant of her identity against her wishes, it has a reductive impact on her other potentialities and skills. If she talks about gaining autonomy through her career, she would be stigmatized or called out to be too headstrong.
For pregnant Asian employees, this stigma has to be addressed on two levels. Firstly, she has to rebut the presumption that the pregnancy was something uncalled for, something that she did not wish to happen at all! And secondly, she has to fight off the categoric claims of the society, which believes that in continuing her career following her pregnancy she is signifying a substantial disinterest in her primary task of rearing and raising a child.
Willpower: The Ultimate Asset of the Wondrous Working Women
Despite being subjected to this form of discrimination, the working women in Asia are not bogged down by the bias that comes their way. The New Age Asian Women are well familiar with their skills, their attributes, and in essence the value that they bring to the table. Their willpower is their ultimate attribute. In tough situations, it is this willpower that enables them to wade through murky waters. It allows them to work diligently, by weaving in extra effort to display their mettle to compensate for the presumptions regarding their incapacity on a role simply due to their being pregnant.
It is also encouraging them to overhaul societal approaches surrounding pregnancy. By engaging in their work, instead of being secluded at homes when pregnant, they are challenging the stigma associated with a full-bloomed pregnant woman going out. It allows them to communicate the fact that a pregnant woman, moving freely is not a sign of societal rebuke. No one gets to decide what she should and must do. Being a responsible adult woman, she has the voice as well as the agency to decide that for herself. Just because she is growing a baby in her womb does not mean that she has experienced a reductive span of cognitive focus. She can still work well. She can still be the wondrous woman that she was before this experience.
Through their commitment, the pregnant Asian women manifest that pregnancy is not an illness. It is not a disease that allows you to label someone as incapable or inefficient. Instead, it is a human credit! It is a blessing that adds on and multiplies your potentialities. And wisdom demands that it must be seen so.