Pregnant women at work: The role of stigma in predicting women’s intended exit from the workforce

From Psychology of Women Quarterly

The majority of U.S. women are working, either full time or part time, when they become pregnant for the first time. Although most women in the United States return to work within 3 months of the birth of their children, about a quarter ultimately quit their jobs. One key factor that may contribute to women’s decisions to leave their jobs is the stereotyping and discrimination (i.e., stigma) they may experience in the workplace when they become pregnant. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of stigma in women’s decisions to leave the workforce following the birth of a first child. Women in the study both anticipated and experienced discrimination related to their status as pregnant employees. Most importantly, when women felt they had the support of their workplaces, they experienced less discrimination and were less likely to want to leave their jobs. This study demonstrates the importance of workplace experiences in understanding why women leave their jobs.

Abstract

Research suggests that pregnant women are discriminated against in the workplace and that a significant percentage of new mothers leave the Overall, our study demonstrates the utility of a stigma framework in understanding how women come to want to leave their jobs. Women in the study both anticipated and experienced discrimination related to their status as pregnant employees. workforce. Few researchers have examined the link between women’s discriminatory experiences and workforce attrition, instead of focusing on either individual-level factors (e.g., income) or workplace factors (e.g., workplace support) that predict turnover. We integrate previous findings on individual and workplace factors within a stigma framework that takes into account pregnant women’s anticipated and experienced stigma. We hypothesized that pregnant women’s anticipated and experienced stigma would mediate the relationships between individual (e.g., gender role attitudes) and workplace factors (e.g., workplace support) and job satisfaction, psychological well-being, and turnover intentions. Using a three-wave longitudinal design, we surveyed 142 pregnant women during and after their pregnancies, and we used path analysis to test mediational models. Results indicated that anticipated stigma partially mediated the relationship between workplace factors and psychological well-being, whereas experienced stigma partially mediated the relationships between workplace factors and job satisfaction, psychological well-being, and turnover intentions. Overall, our study demonstrates both the utility of a stigma framework and the importance of workplace experiences in understanding why women leave their jobs.

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Article details
Annie B. Fox and Diane M. Quinn0
Pregnant Women at Work: The Role of Stigma in Predicting Women’s Intended Exit From the Workforce Psychology of Women Quarterly 0361684314552653, first published on September 30, 2014 doi:10.1177/0361684314552653

     
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