Their experiment measured formal discrimination (whether applicants were told a job was available and allowed to complete a job application) and interpersonal discrimination (whether sales personnel attempted to prematurely end the conversation, pursed their lips, exhibited hostility, treated the applicant rudely, furrowed their eyebrows and seemed awkward).
The study revealed that ratings from three perspectives-applicants, observers and independent evaluators-converge to show that pregnant job applicants receive more interpersonal hostility than do nonpregnant job applicants.
However, the study also showed that pregnant job applicants who address these stereotypes when inquiring about jobs (particularly their personal levels of commitment and flexibility) are nearly three times less likely to experience interpersonal discrimination than pregnant job applicants who say nothing to combat pregnancy stereotypes.
Study's co-author Mikki Hebl, professor of psychology at Rice, said that understanding what counterstereotypical information is effective at reducing discrimination is critical for pregnant women to know because then they can act or provide information counter to such stereotypes.
She said that in addition, human resources departments also can benefit from focusing their employee training initiatives on the inclusion of effective counterstereotypical information that redresses pregnancy discrimination.
The study included 161 retailers in three malls in a major metropolitan area.