The law aside, revealing you are pregnant during the hiring process can hamper your chances of getting the job.
As I enter my 30s, I hear more friends and peers contemplate: “Should I disclose at a job interview that I’m pregnant?”
My short — and often controversial — answer is no, you should not. As a journalist covering workplace issues long before I even thought of having children, I’ve sadly heard from more women than I can count about how revealing this information in good faith has resulted in lost opportunities.
But there are legal protections, you protest! Indeed, the U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act clearly lays out that an employer is prohibited to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy. It’s clearly written: “An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy related condition as long as she is able to perform the major functions of her job. An employer cannot refuse to hire her because of its prejudices against pregnant workers or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.”
And yet, hiring, and even pay and promotion decisions are so subjective that it’s easy for a hiring manager to state all sorts of reasons why you weren’t hired that had nothing to do with your pregnancy. So keep it quiet, I say.
One friend, we’ll call her Sara, interviewed for a lucrative job in publishing while she was 8 months pregnant. “I was a very small pregnant woman and not showing and wore maternity Spanx — it’s a thing! — to the interview,” she says. The interview went really well, but when the company mentioned they needed someone to start right away, she felt that she had to come clean about her pregnancy. “I didn’t get the job and obviously, it’s tricky to put it down to the fact that I was pregnant,” she says. But in hindsight she believes the outcome was fair because she wouldn’t have been able to start right away. “But for jobs with longer hiring timelines, I absolutely wouldn’t mention it,” she adds.
Sara has recently been interviewing for jobs again, this time not-pregnant, and says she can’t help but put herself in the shoes of hiring managers. “If I were a hiring manager, I’d be less likely to hire someone who was pregnant, too. But as a woman, of course I find it unfair,” she says.
We all fall prey to our implicit biases, especially ones that dictate that mothers can’t commit to work and their children. That’s at the crux of why I believe that a woman should be allowed to make this decision for herself. Each woman has a different experience and circumstances with motherhood — some want to return to work immediately, some are compelled to for financial reasons, while some decide to step away temporarily or even permanently from the workforce. Just because society assumes the latter to be true across the board, many career-focused women are getting penalized for having children.
Seeing this play out far too many times in the workplace, I frequently advise friends to keep the news under wraps so that they can make the best decision for themselves and their family. It’s not one a hiring manager should make for her.