Do you remember my employee Charlene? I wrote about her a few months ago. She was the new hire who replied, "NO!" to the question of whether she had kids and then backpedaled quickly after that stating, "maybe when I get married, but not now."
Well, surprise of all surprises, she's now pregnant and not married. I found out a month or so ago. She's in her third month and sick as a dog. Almost every day she looks completely miserable. Yesterday, she came into my office looking not only miserable but on the verge of breaking into tears. I asked her how she is doing. "Not good" and her eyes began to well up. I invited her to close the door and sit down so we could talk.
She is completely overwhelmed with being pregnant. She is nauseous every day and nothing helps. She is having anxiety attacks and is sick with worry over being a mom, given the fact that she is unmarried and lives with her mother and grandmother. She is stressed about not being a good employee (because she's had to leave early frequently due to being so sick) and worried about my perception of her. I told her not to stress out as far as work is concerned - that we all have a generous bank of sick time to use. I was being extra compassionate because I truly feel sorry for this young woman. She has made a rough bed to lie in and it's clear she's having regrets.
Now of course I am now dealing with yet another scenario where I am going to have to find a replacement for an employee on maternity leave. It got me to thinking that perhaps I should stick to hiring men from now on, since it's pretty safe to assume I won't have to deal with these kinds of issues with them...
WHICH got me thinking about the glass ceiling and the reason women are paid less than men. I suspect it has less to do with general gender bias as it has to do with the fact that women are not as reliable as employees because most of them become moms and desert their jobs - or at the minimum become distracted and less invested in their jobs once they have kids. Many women leave the workforce altogether to raise kids and interrupt the progression of their careers and then return to find they are not making as much money as their male counterparts who have reliably remained on the job.
Later yesterday afternoon I was meeting with another director and filled her in on the situation with Charlene. At the end of the discussion I said, "God bless her" (in other words - glad it's not me) and the other director said, "Yeah. Better her than me". Hm, is there another childfree-by-choice person in the office that I didn't know about? I must investigate.