Some Chinese Companies’ Message To Working Women: Don’t Get Pregnant

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This is happening in China, but discrimination against pregnant women is a global issue

New York Times article from Tianjin, China tells the story of Bella Wang, a woman applying for a managerial job who didn’t even think twice about the section of the application that asked her if she was married and if she had kids. When Wang accepted the job, though, she was shocked that the offer came with some big strings attached: She had to sign an agreement stating she wouldn’t get pregnant for her first two years with the company. If she did, she could be fired without warning or compensation.

The article went viral online, and people were pretty shocked to read about how blatantly China discriminates against women and ignores their reproductive rights.

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But many people also pointed out in their replies that China is not the only place in the world where this sort of thing happens.

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According to the New York Times, these kinds of agreements are becoming more and more common in China, where women face all kinds of discrimination in the workplace. But pregnancy discrimination isn’t only an issue in China — it’s something women contend with all over the world.

And while we wouldn’t think of the United States as a place where women are harassed, degraded, or even forced out of their jobs because they become pregnant, it absolutely is. While pregnancy discrimination is illegal in the U.S., that does not mean it doesn’t happen.

The National Partnership for Women and Families collects data on American pregnancy discrimination, and the picture it paints is… not great. According to their research, pregnancy discrimination cases in the U.S. have risen 35 percent in the last 1o years, and one in five discrimination reports filed by women involves some sort of pregnancy discrimination.

They also highlight real-life cases where women lost their jobs just for being pregnant. A retailer worker in Kansas was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to prevent bladder infections while she was expecting. A nursing home activity director was fired after she asked for physical accommodations to prevent having a miscarriage because she had miscarried before.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prevents all of this from happening, which means these women, and others like them, have a legal case against their employers. But that takes money and time and the burden of proof falls on the woman. Being pregnant is hard enough work without having to go to court and try to prove your employer fired you for exercising your fundamental right to have a child.

While the New York Times story gains traction online, we have to stand in solidarity with the women of China, because they are not alone. Pregnancy discrimination is a global issue and one we should be fighting to end everywhere.