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Stereotypes of pregnancy can lead to workplace accidents | WSU Insider

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Fear of confirming stereotypes about pregnant workers as incompetent, weak, or less committed to their work can lead pregnant employees to work harder and risk injury.

A recent study by Washington State University of pregnant women in physically demanding jobs showed that the majority, about 63%, felt this type of "stereotype threat", the fear of confirming negative assumptions about a group to which they belong. The study, published in the journal Work & Stress, found that this threat led many women to hide their pregnancy and to underperform, including taking measures that put their health and pregnancy at risk, such as standing for long periods or lifting heavy objects.

The study shows the need to recognize that these stereotypes exist and help mitigate their impacts, said Lindsey Lavaysse, lead author of the article and recent Ph.D. from WSU. graduate

“The stereotype of pregnancy is a silent stressor. It's not always visible, but it really impacts women in the workplace, ”said Lavaysse. “Most organizations have policies to accommodate pregnancy, and it is a legal right, but if the organization's culture suggests that there will be retaliation or that workers will be viewed differently, then women will avoid using accommodations that are better for his health and safety. "

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Lavaysse and co-author Tahira Probst, WSU professor of psychology, He surveyed pregnant employees at three separate points in time over a two-month period, beginning with a group of approximately 400. The subjects were at different stages of their pregnancy and worked in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, care of the health and retail.

Researchers looked at workplace accidents for women who reported feeling a low versus high stereotype threat.People reporting a higher stereotype threat had nearly three times as many workplace accidents at the end of the two-month period compared to those who felt a relatively low stereotype threat.

In addition, fears of confirming these stereotypes also au they noted over the two-month period.

"Two months is a relatively small window of time, but in the scheme of a pregnancy close to a full trimester," Lavaysse said. "As they progress through pregnancy, their experience of stereotype threat, a significant stressor, is also increasing."

The researchers note some limitations to the study, namely that the participants were self-selected, and many dropped out before the end of the two months. However, this is the first study to establish a connection between the threat of the stereotype of pregnancy and workplace accidents.

The authors recommend further research that investigates possible variables that may mitigate some of the negative stigmas related to pregnancy while working and create better social support for using pregnancy shelter and maternity leave policies.

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