Maternity Policies and Working Women

By Sheila B. Kamerman; Alfred J. Kahn et al. | Go to book overview

1. MATERNITY AND THE WORKING WOMAN

"These girls have it easy today, and they don't even know it. Six weeks paid leave and another three months unpaid if they want it with their jobs saved for them."

She spoke brusquely and she seemed angry and resentful. Assistant director of her department, with the company for ten years, she had been urged by her boss to talk to us as a woman and as a manager about the company's maternity policies. And so she did: she described the benefits, what the experience of the firm was in providing them, and what some of the problems were. But more revealingly, at some point as she talked, she began to reminisce.

Eleanor Jamison had worked all of her adult life and she was now close to retirement. She had been married and had brought up three children at a time when most women, and certainly most mothers, were at home and not at work. She talked about what it was like to be a woman and a wife at the workplace thirty years ago, what it was like to become pregnant and be working at the same time, what it was like to be a mother and to continue working. Finally, she discussed what it was like now to be a manager with women working under her with a very different view of what the work world was like and what they expected of it.

"Why, when I got married in 1940," she recalled, "I needed permission from my boss to remain on the job. Not only were there no benefits provided, nor any kind of medical or sickness insurance, but there was even some question as to whether a married woman should be allowed to work! Then World War

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