Working Her Way Back: Pregnant Career Women
When women leave their jobs for maternity break, they generally return to their same position and rank. Not so, apparently, in women’s tennis.
Serena Williams was ranked No. 1 when she left tennis last January to have her first child, Alexis, in September 2018. When she returned to the game this March, Williams’ rank tumbled to 454.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) provides players returning from injury layoffs or pregnancy with a “special ranking” that can be used to enter tournaments, but not for seeding at those tournaments. As a result, Williams was not seeded in the French Open on May 21st. “This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA ranking,” the French Tennis Federation said in a statement. “Consequently, (the seeds) will reflect this week’s world ranking.”
Shortly after that, the U.S. Tennis Association announced, starting with this year’s tournament in August, that the U.S. Open will no longer penalize players in awarding seeds after their rankings have dropped due to maternity breaks. “We have top players who exemplify womanhood, becoming mothers, and are not being allowed to return following their pregnancy with a record that reflects that — Victoria Azarenka last year, and Serena now doing the same thing,” Katrina Adams, president and chief executive of the USTA, said in an interview with the Washington Post.
The USTA is unsure as to how this will work with female players who surpass the ranking of women on pregnancy leave. However, Adams ensured that Williams will be seeded this year for the tournament and that her becoming a mother will not hinder that status.
Under federal law, women who are pregnant, have been pregnant, or may become pregnant are protected against pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment at work. Women may also have a legal right to work adjustments that will allow them to do their jobs without jeopardizing your health, according to the EEOC.
For other women in professional sports, telling sponsors about their pregnancy can be even more daunting. Snowboarder Kimmy Fasani who was able to ski pregnant for three months before mustering up the courage to tell her sponsors. She was able to work out a deal favoring all parties involved.
Another professional snowboarder, Maria Thomsen continued performing high-flying tricks while filming them after the birth of her son, Tao. Thomsen told Snowboarder.com, “With help from friends and family, I still get to play on my snowboard. I love being a mom, but it’s important for me to still be myself and have time for me. I don’t get to snowboard as much as I used to, but I make it count when I do.”
Pregnancy has not always been deemed ideal or even appropriate for many workplaces, including Hollywood, and women have gone to extremes to be recognized as equals both while pregnant and afterward.
Gal Gadot, the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the “Justice League,” concealed her pregnancy even through extreme morning sickness and vomiting. The actress welcomed a healthy baby girl in March 2017, but the months leading up to her delivery were not so happy nor healthy. In an attempt to be treated fairly or at least the same as she had always been treated on set, Gadot spent the first five months of her pregnancy shooting “Justice League” trying to hide the fact that she was pregnant.
“The default should be that women get the job done, but there’s a long way to go and a lot of reprogramming that needs to be done to both genders” she told “Rolling Stone.”