Pregnant Women at Work: The Role of Stigma in Predicting Women's Exit from the Workforce

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Industrial




Research suggests that pregnant women are discriminated against in the workplace and that a significant percentage of women who have children leave the workforce. These findings are likely related, yet few researchers have made a direct connection between women's discriminatory experiences and workforce attrition. Instead, researchers have focused their attention on either individual-level factors (e.g., income) or workplace factors (e.g., family-friendly climate) that predict women's exit from the workforce, ignoring the simultaneous effects of these variables. Perhaps most importantly, researchers have not yet examined the process by which labor force attrition of pregnant women occurs. The prevalence and consistency of findings related to pregnancy discrimination suggest that pregnant women are both stereotyped and devalued in the workplace; stereotyping, devaluation, and discrimination comprise the essential components of stigma. Thus, a stigma framework provides a useful lens for understanding the process involved in the workforce attrition of pregnant women. Using a longitudinal design, 142 pregnant workers were surveyed during and after their pregnancies regarding their experiences in the workplace. Results indicated that experienced stigma mediated the relationship between workplace factors (support, work-family balance culture) and job satisfaction, turnover intentions, and psychological well-being. Individual-level variables affected women's turnover intentions by influencing their intentions early in their pregnancies. The implications of these results for women and their workplaces are discussed. ^