More Women Are Opening Up About Reproductive Health in the Workplace
Fertility and family planning are major life events many people want to be able to share openly with their employers
Pregnancy discrimination has been illegal since 1978, but there are plenty of other topics surrounding family planning and fertility that many employees may hesitate to bring up in the workplace.
Fortunately, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, that’s starting to change as more women begin feeling more comfortable opening up to their colleagues and employers about everything from miscarriages to fertility treatments.
Experts say being open about formerly taboo reproductive topics could help benefit an employee’s personal and professional life, as well as help fight workplace stigma against reproductive health. Processes like fertility treatments and adoption can be lengthy, time-consuming ordeals, and being transparent about what’s going on can help employees control the narrative surrounding their own health, rather than letting a workplace rumor mill start churning out theories for missed days and time-off requests.
Employees might also find comfort among coworkers during challenging times in their reproductive journey. “For me it was like, how can I go through this and not tell my colleagues? I’m a mess,” one 37-year-old told the Wall Street Journal of her experience with a miscarriage. “I realized how much talking about it was helping me cope.”
Meanwhile, it seems employers are listening. According to the report, more companies are including benefits like egg-freezing and paid leave for pregnancy loss to help support employees’ reproductive health.
That said, not all companies are as far along in embracing progressive views on formerly taboo topics, and experts warn that some employees may still want to proceed with caution lest their health disclosures cost them a promotion, or worse.
“You want to make sure there’s not going to be a penalty,” said Kim Scott, author of a forthcoming book about gender bias in the workplace, adding that employees should carefully analyze their company culture before making a big health disclosure.
Either way, the fact that more people are even beginning to consider these conversations seems like a positive sign for the broader conversation surrounding reproductive health and family planning — very normal, very important parts of anyone’s life that shouldn’t have to remain under wraps.
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