This Edinburgh mother-of-three has experienced discrimination in two different jobs. Valerie*, who is in her mid-30s, tells her story.
“While I was working away from home as an intern with a large multinational corporation, a senior colleague tried to jump into bed with me after a night out. I was in my mid-20s – I think he saw me as an easy target. His behaviour reflected the sexist culture in the company. During the job interview, I’d been asked what my boyfriend would think of me working away from home, as if I needed his permission. My male manager even said once that married women were a risk to employ. My internship went well and I was given a verbal offer of a permanent role. Very soon after, however, I announced I was pregnant and the offer was withdrawn. The very strong message was that, as a mother, I was not a sound investment for the company.
By the time I had my third baby a couple of years ago, I was working in the Scottish public sector. Here I had a horrendous experience: the moment I told them I was expecting, my female managers began finding miniscule errors in all my work, leading to a negative performance review. They tried to build up a disciplinary case against me. I sought support from my trade union, who recognised it as bullying and helped me fight the disciplinary case. I blamed myself and had to be booked off sick for the rest of my pregnancy. What happened really knocked my confidence and it’s taken me a long time to build myself back up again. I only realised afterwards how it shook me – my first and third pregnancies being marred by such bad experiences.”