In an ideal world, women earn salaries and bonuses as high as their male counterparts. In addition, they are entitled to paid-maternity leave, or at least some time off to bake cookies or bond with their kids without having to show up for weekend meetings.
But, experience taught me differently. Some of my female friends have had to take unpaid leaves when they were expecting, because they were contract workers. They sign their contracts without being informed of their rights as female employees.
Pregnancy is a hot-button issue that can make or break a recruitment in an interview.
Once, during a job interview with an all-male (and possible married) team of executives, I was asked about my future plans, including: “When will you get married?”
Luckily I knew the answer, because my partner and I have made our plans.
“I think it would be in the next three to four years,” I told the interviewer.
He then told me about pregnant employees whose performance at work declined because of morning sickness. While he “absolutely appreciated” gender-equality, he has a pretty hard experience with this, he said.
I have since learned that a job interview is not only a chance for an employer to get to know its potential employees, but vice versa. Unmatched values and expectations on both parts will not likely result in a good professional dynamics. As an interviewee, your job is not just to show your potential employers how your skills and capability are appropriate for the position applied, but also your values and perspective.
During an interview, a jobseeker can learn about the company or organization’s values.
And when you pay close attention, you’ll notice that organizations or corporation that claim to be for gender equality may not be so when it comes to their views of pregnant employees.
But not every woman plans to get married or wants to have a child, you say. Yes, but wouldn’t you still want to make sure if your company values you as much as it does a male employee? Also, what happens if one day you change your mind?
I haven’t gotten pregnant, yet, but I see this as a potential problem. What’s wrong with pregnant employees? Does no man ever have to worry and lose focus at work, when he leaves his pregnant wife struggling with morning sickness and discomfort?
Instead of worrying about whether a pregnant employee will be able to carry out her job when she’s down with morning sickness, why not allow some flexibility in working hours and let the woman work out of the office?
So be bold with your company. I don’t care if you have a feminist-patch on your collar or not, fight for it.
After all, we have the law to back us. Article 49 on 1999 Law No. 39 on Human Rights stipulates that a) women have the rights to a lawful employment or profession; b) women are entitled to a special protection in her job against hazardous threat to her reproductive system; and, c) the distinct rights that her reproductive functions are guaranteed and protected by the law.
A further reading of the law explains that the reproduction functions include menstruation, pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. In fact, the 2013 Labor Law guarantees a woman a “Period Leave” when needed. Did your boss know that? Make sure he does, and take a day off when the cramps get too much.
So before you sign that contract, take a really good look at it. And if you are already employed, and feel that you’re denied your right as a female worker, go back to your contract. We don’t want to be given privilege just for being a woman, but neither do we want to be discriminated against because of it.
About Margaretha Nitha
A soon to be graduate from Communication Department of University of Gadjah Mada, Margaretha is a self-proclaimed good diapers changer, especially for her fatty-but-lovely niece. She is able to survive with small daily intake of carbs, but (too much) laughing is her Kryptonite.