Maternal profiling. noun.
Employment discrimination against a woman who has, or will have, children.
I am on the e-mail list for updates from MomsRising, a non-partisan grassroots advocacy group which works for legislative and social changes in support of motherhood and family issues.
"Maternal profiling" was listed in the New York Times as a buzzword of 2007. The term was popularized by MomsRising. It's more than a buzzword, of course. For most working mothers (and those even suspected of becoming mothers by employers), it's a reality.
This reality is well known within the academic sciences. If you work in that setting, you've heard plenty of horror stories or been the subject of one yourself. The stories run from the flagrant--the professor at my old universitywho tried to deny his pregnant postdoctoral employee any maternity leave whatsoever--to the more subtle (like the quiet assumption that you are no longer a serious scientist once you become pregnant).
What I did not realize was the extent of the problem across fields. If you really feel like getting pissed off today, read this link I received from MomsRising. There's a summary of statistics and studies--according to one study, mothers are 79% less likely to be hired than non-mothers with equal resumes and job experiences. And there are some heartbreaking and infurating personal stories told. The story of the pregnant social worker who could not get hired for a job in her field. Stories of mothers in the fields of child care and childhood education who were discriminated against. The woman who worked for an organization supporting women's rights whose maternity leave was taken away. A professor of humanities in a department known for its women's studies program who was denied tenure--at least in part, she believes, because she was a mother.
I don't know simple solutions, and I don't mean to get into a full-blown discussion about policy here. I just wanted to provide the news link to those interested, and raise awareness.
And here's my own (very) slight story:
I'm not going to blame my layoff on maternal profiling. My supervisor really did lose his major source of funding that year. A number of people were asked/pushed to leave. But before I left that postdoctoral position, I made an appointment with my supervisor for a frank discussion about my career prospects. When I walked into his office, the first thing he asked me was "Do you plan on having any more children?" At this point, Bean-girl was almost two years old, and my husband and I already knew that we would like another. When I replied in the affirmative, my supervisor literally threw up his hands and exclaimed "Then what's the point?!" He then proceeded to lecture me for the next 15 minutes on how it is simply impossible to combine motherhood with an academic science career.
He would never have given that lecture to one of the fathers in the lab.