National Partnership for Women & Families

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Portia Wu, Vice President

From the desk of ... Portia Wu

What you shouldn't have to expect when you're expecting

July 23, 2010 | Work and Family | Workplace Fairness

Owning your own home has long been a central part of the American Dream. It's as American as baseball, apple pie and mom. But according to this column in the New York Times, a lot of moms and moms-to-be are getting short shrift.

On top of their other worries, expectant mothers and women on maternity leave may face another hurdle: Being turned down for mortgages. Some lenders appear to be basing their denials on the retro belief that new moms just don't go back to work.

It's against the law to use gender-based stereotypes to make mortgage decisions. And, guess what else? Their assumptions are wrong! Here are the facts:

  • In 6 out of 10 families, the woman is the primary breadwinner or a significant breadwinner. Because of the recession, hundreds of thousands more families with young children rely entirely on women's wages because only mom is working. Women work—and women go back to work—because their families need their income to survive.
  • Even before the recession, four in five employed first-time moms were back at work within a year of having a child, and the majority went back within three months. - Learn more.

Here's some good news: The Obama Administration has announced that it will investigate lenders who may be breaking the law and disqualifying women because they are pregnant or on leave. We're glad that this Administration has jumped on the problem, and hope these investigations are only one part of its response. It seems some lenders, and others who set the standards, need some serious education so they stop penalizing pregnant women and new families!

Not only that, but we think a comprehensive effort to combat discrimination against pregnant women and new moms is long overdue. Because while this news about mortgages is shocking, many of us just aren't that surprised. After all, claims of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace have been skyrocketing for years now.

New moms get lots of advice about what to eat and what not to drink, and how to decorate the nursery and get ready for the baby. Maybe it's time we share some advice with employers, bankers, lenders and other institutions about how to treat pregnant women and new moms fairly!

Have you, or has someone you know, experienced problems getting a mortgage because of pregnancy or the birth of a child? Have you experienced other forms of pregnancy discrimination, at work or at school? Tell us your story, so we can share it with the Administration.

Or learn more about your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the laws that protect women from unfair loans and credit decisions.


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