Taking Maternity Leave Doesn’t Make You Worthless

I haven’t had a Dinkus of the Day in a while, but somehow I always find more.

Okla. official questions hiring pregnant woman

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A member of Oklahoma’s Board of Education drew heated reaction Thursday after saying a newly hired administrator would be “worthless” as a legislative liaison if she took immediate maternity leave.

Shortly after the board voted to hire Jessica Russell, who is due to give birth in April, former state Sen. Herb Rozell noted that she was pregnant and questioned whether she would be around for key days of the upcoming legislative session.

Russell was hired to represent the state Department of Education’s interests at the Capitol. The Oklahoma Legislature reconvenes Feb. 7 and must end its business by May 27.

“If she has that baby in April and takes off six weeks, she’s worthless to us,” Rozell said.

While there was some laughter in the room, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi rebuked Rozell and ordered a 10-minute recess. Russell left the room in tears.

“Your comment is inappropriate and not worthy of this board and this department,” Barresi said.

After the meeting, Rozell said his words came out wrong.

“I didn’t mean to interfere. I was just hoping we could have her in April and May, because that’s when everything gets tied up,” he said.

Gov. Mary Fallin called Rozell’s remark “demeaning” and “disgusting,” while Sen. Clark Jolley and Sen. John Ford called for Rozell to resign. Jolley said Rozell’s comment was “archaic, misogynistic and deplorable.”

Rozell didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment about calls for his resignation.

Oklahoma has about 660,000 students in its public education system.

I’ve never had to take maternity leave, but I’ve worked with women who have. I’ve spoken with a few of them and asked if they ever had to worry about this kind of reaction. What sucks is that all of them expressed having some level of anxiety about notifying their boss that they were pregnant and would be taking leave, even at places that have track records of treating women and families with respect when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Sen. Roznell’s attitude is why – women still don’t know if they’re going to run into this Dinkus in the workplace. Even if the boss gives you a perfectly PC response and congratulates you, is her or she really thinking “Great…now what am I going to do? How can she get pregnant now when I need her here? Should I put off promoting her if she’s planning to have a lot of kids?”

As if being pregnant isn’t challenging enough. 

Found on twitter via @miriamzperez

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One Response to “Taking Maternity Leave Doesn’t Make You Worthless”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Thank you for posting this. Yes, it is really stressful. I have had many friends who were working and knew they were going to be staying home with their children and quitting their jobs after giving birth, yet due to policies they had to go back to work for at least a day after their maternity leave, in order to maintain their benefits (health insurance, etc). Having to pretend you are returning to work, and having co-workers judge you for doing that, is really difficult and bullshit. All these women are doing are taking advantage of their *rightful benefits*. It is dumb they have to basically pretend they are returning to work to do so.

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