Early in my pregnancy, I applied for a project management role for a company that works with women and children who are in unsafe situations, helping bring them into safe havens. I thought this would be a significant role to apply for since I was out of work and just nine weeks pregnant. The average interview process is around 3-4 weeks; I knew that if I were to get the job, there would be more than enough time for me to settle into a role and to tell them I was pregnant promptly.
After applying for the role and going through a two-month interview process consisting of four rounds (two of them were in-depth projects), I was the final candidate. We discussed start dates, expectations for the first few months, and salary negotiations. Throughout the process, I received incredibly positive feedback, claiming that my skills perfectly matched their team and the role.
In the final and fourth conversations, I thought this would be a good time to mention I was pregnant. Since they’re a company that helps women and children, claims open and honest values, and has a compassionate mission, I thought the right thing to do would be to share my pregnancy news with them, as by now, I was almost 20 weeks.
After that conversation, the day I was supposed to receive my offer letter and contract came and went. I sent two follow-up emails and finally got on a video meeting with someone from the company. They told me while I ticked every box, they would not be offering me the position after all, and this was down to my lack of “shareholder experience.”
I protested this as a feeble excuse, listing why this was contradictory to any prior discussion. I asked for a valid reason why this went wrong (after four rounds), and they could not provide me with one.
Unfortunately, I do not doubt that I did not receive the offer because I disclosed my pregnancy to them. After having the conversation with them, I had a rush of intense emotion and racing thoughts take over. I knew I had this job, and I couldn’t wrap my head around their excuse and reasoning as to why I did not make the cut.
Feeling those intense emotions after something like this has happened to you is expected; however, there are a few things to remember, whether you're pregnant or not.
1. It’s Not You. It’s Them.
Really and truly. If you know something is meant for you deep in your gut, nine times out of 10, it probably is. I had no doubt I had the job, and I have no doubt they made this decision based on my pregnancy. I know this has nothing to do with my skills or my self-worth and that this is a ‘them’ problem — an old way of thinking and completely contradictory to who they are as a global organization.
2. This Does Not Define Your Value.
When things like this happen, it does not define your value as an individual.
I knew straight away this was down to them. This had nothing to do with me. Your value is not based on another person’s opinion of you or a specific situation. Your self-worth is a value defined by you and only you.
3. Stand Up for Yourself.
If you know you’re right, don’t be afraid to fight that. I am so glad I questioned them about the excuse they gave and whether they based this on the fact I told them about my pregnancy. After a pause, they responded, quite sheepishly, “…no…of course not.” I could see that they were, unfortunately, not being honest with me.
4. Seek Support.
Do not internalize what you’re feeling. The days that followed were hard. I was extremely frustrated and helpless and didn’t know where to go next. When you’ve been discriminated against, you need to seek support. Discrimination can cause you to feel sad, anxious, and invalidated. It affects your self-worth. Talking to a family member, partner, friend, or therapist can help validate and support your experiences and feelings.
From firing pregnant employees, not hiring pregnant women, denying accommodations and leave time, and not considering pregnant women for promotions and raises, discrimination in the workplace continues to limit women’s opportunities and career advancement.