In a recent conversation with Indian journalist Faye D’Souza, actor Neha Dhupia revealed that “she got fired for being pregnant.” Pregnancy is often seen as the end of a woman’s career, especially in the entertainment industry. While it’s comparatively better in other fields, pregnant women are usually not the favourite candidates for any job.
Pregnancy discrimination is a serious issue that many women face even today. Companies don’t prefer to hire pregnant women or newly married women. Working women who get pregnant face discrimination in terms of promotion denials, redundancies, decrease in pay, etc. They are sidelined in some way or another because they are assumed to be “inefficient.”
In India, no employer can fire a pregnant woman, according to Section 12 of the country’s maternity laws. If an employer sacks a woman for getting pregnant, they are penalised under Section 21 of the aforementioned law. However, this does not save women from facing discrimination at work because of their pregnancy.
Neha Dhupia On Career After Motherhood
In the interview, Neha Dhupia said that having her 20-year body of work with her helped her get meetings when she reached out to find work. However, she added that she continues to face questions like, “Now that you’ve become a mom, will you play a mom?” “Will you sign up for an OTT show and give us this much time?”
Why is becoming a parent a big enough hindrance for women while it is not for men? Why are women still expected to close the doors to their dreams after becoming mothers? Why do employers assume pregnant women and new mothers are “incapable” of performing well?
This stems from the patriarchal belief that women are nurturers by nature, and on becoming mothers, they would prioritise their children and fail to commit themselves to their profession. But haven’t we already established that women can continue to flourish professionally while being mothers? From Mary Kom to Alia Bhatt, several women have been smashing the stereotype that mothers cannot have a successful careers.
“I didn’t want to be written off like that, so I took the opportunity that came to me three weeks after giving birth.” – Sahithya Jagannathan
Sahithya Jagannathan, a model and host, had to resume work three weeks postpartum. In an interview with SheThePeople, she said, “In all fairness, I should have taken more time off for my body to heal because I was dealing with postpartum blues and I was in complete agony. But I also come from an industry where a lot is given to bouncing back. Women get quickly written off for becoming mothers. When a man becomes a father, it becomes a negotiating tool for him to get a higher paycheque, but when a woman becomes a mother, it’s assumed she has more important things to do than work. I didn’t want to be written off like that, so I took the opportunity that came to me three weeks after giving birth.”
While society criticises women who don’t embrace motherhood immediately after marriage and accuses them of being beauty-conscious and selfish, a lot of women take the time to establish their careers so that they have something to go back to after a maternity break. Mothers always prioritise their babies, but that doesn’t mean they can’t commit themselves to their professions.
Why does society innately underestimate a woman once she embraces motherhood? Isn’t it a woman’s choice to decide whether or not she wants to juggle both motherhood and her career or take a break? And when she comes back, doesn’t she deserve a fair and equal opportunity to resume her career?
How long is motherhood going to be held against women who dare to dream big?
Patriarchy glorifies women as multitaskers and superhumans. Going by the same logic, why are many women deprived of the opportunity to continue their careers after motherhood? Is this a way to rob women of everything they have worked hard for and show them that their place is inside the house because patriarchy feels threatened by women?
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Views expressed by the author are their own