Gabrielle Union, star of the hit BET show Being Mary Jane, opened up in the October issue of Redbook about the struggle to balance career success with starting a family.
“So far, it has not happened for us. A lot of my friends deal with this,” says Union, who is married to NBA star Dwayne Wade. “There’s a certain amount of shame that is placed on women who have perhaps chosen a career over starting a family younger. The penance for being a career woman is barrenness. You feel like you’re wearing a scarlet letter.”
Later in the article, Union, 42, says, “The reality is that women are discriminated against in the workplace for being mothers. As much as there are strides being made—you get pregnant, your career takes a hit. You can’t have a bad day. Don’t you dare cry at work. Don’t raise your voice. Especially if you’re a black woman in corporate America—now you’re ‘the angry black woman.'”
While you might wonder what a successful actress could possibly know about the trials of having an office job, Union is not far off. Her comments come as more and more stories about moms facing discrimination at work have been bubbling to the surface. Julia Cheiffetz, an executive editor at Harper Collins, for example, recently spoke out about being treated poorly on her return from maternity leave while she was employed by Amazon; she was also diagnosed with cancer during her maternity leave.
Upon her return, she expected to catch up on what was going in her department—and maybe share a baby photo or two. Instead, she says, “I was taken to lunch by a woman I barely knew. Over Cobb salad she calmly explained that all but one of my direct reports — the people I had hired — were now reporting to her. In the months that followed, I was placed on a dubious performance improvement plan, or PIP, a signal at Amazon that your employment is at risk.”
Earlier this year, in a column for Fortune.com, Katharine Zaleski apologized to working mothers—while a manager at The Huffington Post and the The Washington Post, she said she “committed a long list of infractions against mothers or said nothing while I saw others do the same.”
Said Zaleski, “I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day.”
She added, "I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she ‘got pregnant.’”
It's frustrating that in 2015, mothers are still facing unfair pressure and discrimination, even from other women. With celebrities like Union and other working women speaking out, hopefully they’ll further raise awareness about the difficulties working moms often face, so changes can continue to be made.