working pregnant womanJob hunting is never fun, even when the economy is soaring and jobs are plentiful. When the job market isn’t so ideal, employers look for ways to weed through the many applicants vying for a single position. Unfortunately, pregnant applicants are often weeded out quickly, based on nothing more valid - or legal - than the mere state of being pregnant.

Pregnancy is fraught with stereotypes that can add to the frustration of landing a job in any market. A recent study addressed some of these pregnancy-related stereotypes to see if there’s a way to minimize the negative impact pregnancy may have during the hunt for new employment.

The study, conducted by researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, explored four stereotypes associated with pregnancy in the hope of finding ways to overcome them. The stereotypes were evaluated through three perspectives.


  • Incompetence
  • Inflexibility
  • Lack of commitment
  • Need for accommodation


  • Applicant
  • Independent evaluator
  • Observer

The applicants applied for retail positions where jobs were openly available at 161 different retail stores in three malls in a major metropolitan area. The study explored how often a pregnant applicant was allowed to complete an application and what kinds of interpersonal discrimination, if any, was shown toward the applicant. Discriminatory behaviors of the interviewers included:

  • Awkwardness
  • Hostility toward the applicant
  • Rudeness
  • Furrowed eyebrows
  • Pursed lips
  • Premature end to conversation

The research confirmed that pregnant job applicants are indeed treated with less respect than applicants who are not pregnant. It also revealed the pregnant job applicants fared much better when pregnancy was revealed in the interview process than did those who remained silent about their pregnancies. Those who openly revealed pregnancy were three times less likely to face discrimination than those who did not. Furthermore, when two specific areas of concern were immediately addressed in relation to the job applicant’s pregnancy - flexibility and level of personal commitment - the pregnant job applicants faced the least discrimination.

Whitney Botsford Morgan, lead author of the study’s findings, says discrimination toward pregnant job applicants is no secret but applicant behaviors during the interview process can help overcome it. “Statements that refute stereotypes about being inflexible and lacking commitment are particularly effective,” according to Morgan.

For best results, the pregnant job applicant is advised to acknowledge these stereotypes and confront them immediately when the interview process begins.

The September 2013 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology carries full details of the study.

Source: Brooks, Chad. “Pregnant and Looking for Work? Attack Stereotypes Head-On.” Business News Daily. Tech Media Network. Dec 14, 2013. Web. Dec 29, 2013.

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