One of the most striking discourses of this presidential election cycle is of the reproductive rights of women and how those rights are subordinate to the most pressing problem of the day, the economy. I recently heard a young, well-educated woman say reproductive rights are secondary and she was more concerned about the economy. Her focus was jobs! She had somehow compartmentalized the two and appeared clueless about the connection. If a woman does not control her reproductive reality she cannot control her economic reality. The two are inextricably linked.
Perhaps this hard truth escapes those whose economic realities are full of options. But for women who must work to support themselves, their children and families (either solely or with a spouse) having the right to determine what happens in their wombs – their reproductive rights – are as important on the path to sustained economic well-being as a good education, job opportunities, and even equal pay.
It boggles the mind to hear anyone, most especially women, speak as if reproductive rights and economic well-being are not connected. I am old enough to remember the kinds of questions employers would routinely ask women about their child bearing plans before either hiring or promoting them. Old enough to remember when women in the workplace were relegated to roles that never led to the C-Suite because they could not be counted on to be there for the long haul – “pregnancy and all”.
While today such questions about reproductive plans are considered out-of-bounds, the questions have not gone away. Make no mistake, those questions are still being asked in not so open forums and still impact hiring and promotions. Most women know this. How many do you see seeking new employment or promotions with current employers when “showing” during pregnancy?
To be fair about it, employers want to know basically two things. First, will maternity leave impact productivity in the short term? And second, will the return on investments in employees’ growth and development be realized in the long term? Every woman must study her particular work environment and be very clear about how she will balance child bearing, child rearing, and career steering. The ability to balance these three, hinges on a woman’s right to reproductive choices. Most importantly, the ability to balance these three requires planning and forethought.
A final note about child rearing. Women must “manage the visuals” of frequent absences from work due to demands of childcare. Such absences are noticed. Support systems and networks are essential.
- If a woman does not control her reproductive reality she cannot control her economic reality.
- The most “family friendly” employers put productivity needs over parenting desires and demands.
- Women must be well aware of the impact reproductive choices have on economic well-being and career success.
- Never let anyone make you believe the two are separate.