Our study, conducted with partners in the medical field and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is the first of its kind to examine the experiences and policies specific to pregnancy and maternity leave among women cardiologists.
The study analyzed qualitative survey responses from 323 women cardiologists from the American College of Cardiology Women in Cardiology section and WomenAsOne.org membership who have been pregnant during their career. Nearly 75% reported at least one potential violation of their maternity leave rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including being asked to take on extra service to frontload hours prior to taking leave, salary deficits, or delaying when to inform their employers of their pregnancy due to fear of potential adverse treatment. Additionally, over half of respondents reported that pregnancy negatively impacted their career and 42.4% of these individuals experienced return-to-work pressure, discriminatory actions and delay in promotions.
“While many professions struggle to create environments supportive of pregnancy and child-rearing, the prevalence of illegal behavior in cardiology is quite high and presents substantial legal risk for employers” said Martha Gulati, MD, MS, lead author of the study.
Performing additional service or calls prior to taking maternity leave was associated with higher rates of being placed on bedrest prior to delivery. Almost 40% of the surveyed cardiologists experienced pregnancy complications, a rate that is significantly higher than the general population and other medical specialties.
An increased awareness of FMLA and Title VII violations in the workplace and widespread training for cardiologists and their employers are critical in addressing an employee’s privacy rights in respect to pregnancy and motherhood. Employers should conduct policy reviews and take steps to ensure that their policies and practices are in compliance with the law. For a list of proposed solutions, read the full article.
Adapting policies and practices to comply with pregnancy privacy rights will not only improve compliance with the law but also the professional lives of women cardiologists, their health and well-being and that of their infants, and the ability to recruit and retain women in the cardiology workforce.