As someone who recently took maternity leave in the United States of America, I have a lot of opinions on the subject. It’s too short (even the more generous plans). It’s too unpaid. Oh, did I mention it’s too short?
How are we supposed to live in a society that shames women for not breastfeeding enough–and then sends them back to work before it’s possible to establish a really regular, comfortable nursing routine? Or a society that claims sleep-training is cruel but then sends women back to work before babies naturally sleep through the night?
Thinking about this makes me feel positively murderous—especially when I contemplate the fact that we’re in the absolute pits on this issue compared to every other developed (and less so) nation, in the world including such paragons of gender equality as Iran and China.
At the root of our nation’s garbage policy (FMLA only guarantees 12 weeks, unpaid, to certain companies) is good old fashioned woman-hating and profit worship.
And it can be found even in the highest echelons of society, too. Take President Trump, who once called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. And now, controversy has swirled around a reported comment by Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Neil Gorsuch, whose confirmation hearings began today. A former student of his, Jennifer Sisk, who studied under the nominee at the University of Colorado Law School, alleges in a letter that the judge encouraged his students to, essentially, discriminate against pregnant women in job interviews.
“[H]e asked the class to raise their hands if they knew of a female who had used a company to get maternity benefits and then left right after having a baby,” she wrote. “Judge Gorsuch told the class that not only could a future employer ask female interviewees about their pregnancy and family plans, companies must ask females about their family and pregnancy plans to protect the company.”
In an interview with NPR, Fisk elaborated on her claim: “He kept bringing it back to that this was women taking advantage of their companies, that this was a woman’s issue, a woman’s problem with having children and disadvantaging their companies by doing that.”
Asking women about their pregnancy plans before hiring them is unethical and discriminatory—and gross. (And I’d argue that if women are anecdotally leaving jobs after they return from leave, it’s probably because their companies are doing a crappy job supporting them as they transition back into the workforce, not because they’re manipulative.)
A second student has submitted an affidavit basically supporting Fisk’s claims, although another (male student) has contradicted them, and former female clerks of the judge have written that they found him supportive of their careers.
These issues are bound to surface during the confirmation hearings this week, so stay tuned.