Nearly one in five women perceived a level of discrimination while pregnant, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with the issue worse now than six years ago.
The new ABS Pregnancy and Employment Transitions Survey found that 67,300 (19%) of women who held a job while pregnant perceived some kind of discrimination associated with pregnancy. Of these, the majority (91%) said it was directly associated with their pregnancy.
For 34% of these women, the perceived discrimination came in the form of a missed opportunity for a promotion, while 32% said they missed training and development opportunities and 28% reported receiving "inappropriate or negative comments" from their manager or supervisor.
It found that 22% of those women left their job before the birth of their child.
The study, conducted in November 2011, was based on the employment experiences of women with children under two years old, and collected data based on their time before and after childbirth.
In a statement released this morning, Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency director Helen Conway said that when it came to treating women equally, many organisations were failing.
"Organisations need to come to grips with the impact of family on workplaces. It's not a 'women's' issue; it's a societal issue," she says. "We need to bring about cultural change, so that flexible work arrangements, and flexible careers, are seen as the norm."
She says it'll be continually difficult for Australia to boost its female workforce participation rate if pregnant women continue to quit their jobs.
''The World Economic Forum has found while Australia is ranked number one in the world for female educational attainment , it ranks 44 for female labour-force participation and 68 on wage equality for similar work,'' she said.
Other findings from the ABS report:
- 86% of women who returned to work after the birth of their child accessed a flexible working arrangement.
- 76% of women returned to work part-time following the birth of their child.
- 25% of women cited their main reason for returning to work after the birth of their child was to keep their job, or due to their employer's request.
- 54% of the estimated 523,300 women who were living with a child under the age of two at the time of the study were not in the workforce.
- 88% of the 357,500 women who held a job while pregnant were employees, and 71% of these had paid parental leave entitlements.