Washington Times

5 December 2001

The Washington Times

Pregnancy less likely to stop working women today

The Washington Times

Women are working later into pregnancy and returning sooner to the office after giving birth than they did years ago, a U.S. Census Bureau report suggests.

However, more new mothers may be taking advantage of flexible hours and working part time.

The report being released today showed the changes over the past four decades as more women gained college degrees and professional management positions, analysts said.

It also showed rates of pregnant workers reaching a plateau in the early 1990s.

The biggest increases came in the 1970s and early 1980s, especially after the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Law was passed.

Today, trends suggest that "a shift to more part-time work is beginning to occur, both before and after childbirth," the report said.

"Perhaps this is an indicator of a growing flexibility in the work force or represents the desires of families with newborn children who seek to balance work and family life."

The survey looked at maternity leave and employment patterns of women who gave birth to their first child. It compared data over five-year intervals between 1961 and 1995.

Some highlights:

More women, especially in white-collar jobs, have gained flexibility at work and can set their own hours, said Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Taking paid leave also became a more popular option.

In the early 1960s, 63 percent of women quit around the time of giving birth, while 16 percent took paid leave.

By the early 1990s, 27 percent quit while 43 percent took leave.

To lure and retain workers, companies must offer perks like no mandatory overtime and the ability to set your own schedule, Miss Hartmann said.

"How much workplaces have changed to accommodate families is an ongoing question," said University of Maryland sociologist Suzanne Bianchi. "More workplaces would not have to be as accommodating" if the country enters an extended recession.

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