Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed

Joeli Brearley founded the project and campaign ‘Pregnant Then Screwed‘ after she was sacked by her employer when she was 4 months pregnant. Pregnant Then Screwed protects, supports and promotes the rights of mothers who suffer the effects of systemic, cultural, and institutional discrimination.

Pregnant Then Screwed protects, supports and promotes the rights of mothers who suffer the effects of systemic, cultural, and institutional discrimination.

Existing first as a place where pregnant women and mothers could tell their stories of discrimination anonymously, it has launched a free legal advice line, a peer to peer support network for women who want to take legal action against an employer and a campaign which lobbies the Government for change. Their recent petition to increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim for pregnant women and new

Their recent petition to increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim for pregnant women and new

Their recent petition to increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim for pregnant women and new mums has been signed by 54,000 people and 59 MPs from 7 different parties. Due to popular demand, the project also exists in the US and Spain.

They have launched a crowdfunder to raise money to support this movement www.crowdfunder.co.uk/pregnantthenscrewed with a video featuring me, Honest Mum, Helen Skelton and the Unmumsy Mum amongst others.

 

Describe a typical day for you?

The morning usually starts with me attempting to hide from my children under the duvet. I have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old so the nights can be chaotic, to say the least. After we are all dressed and fed I drop them off at nursery and head to my co-working space.

A large chunk of my day is spent talking to women who have been victims of pregnancy or maternity discrimination, I ensure they get the help they need, whether that be peer to peer support or legal advice and then I go through their story ready to load it up onto our site. The rest of my day differs greatly depending on what I am working on.

At the moment we are running our crowdfunder so that we can continue to offer these valuable services, so my day is spent contacting people, writing or doing interviews that are related to this. I am also currently working on a

I am also currently working on a live-streamed workshop for young mums to help build confidence, to help them develop a support network and to empower them, so some of my day is taken up by developing the website, working on some of the content, and speaking with women who are or were young mums.

My day finishes at 5pm when I go and collect my children. We then get about 90 minutes of eating and playing until I tuck them up into their beds and say goodnight.

 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

When I was sacked by my employer at 4 months pregnant, that was really tough. I discovered soon afterwards that I was having a high-risk pregnancy and could go into labour at any point. I was pregnant, unemployed and unwell, it was probably one of my lowest points both mentally and physically. I was lucky enough to have a really supportive network, my friends rallied around and my partner wouldn’t allow me to wallow in my own self-pity.

I was lucky enough to have a really supportive network, my friends rallied around and my partner wouldn’t allow me to wallow in my own self-pity. He helped rebuild my confidence and helped me get back on my feet professionally. With this support, I managed to get a great job and I won 3 contracts to manage brand-new, exciting projects. In the 5 months before I had my first child I became a published author, I secured the funding for and launched the first tour of digital art around shopping centres in the UK and I directed the first open prototyping session for artists and technologists in Moscow. I am so proud of all of those projects.

In a sense, they were my revenge for how I had been treated as it proved that their prejudice towards me because I was pregnant, was wrong. Just because we are doing something amazing and growing a human, does not mean we become incapable.

Getting through that experience and speaking to other women who had been victims of pregnancy and maternity discrimination was what drove me to create Pregnant Then Screwed.

I am so proud of everything we have achieved in the 2 years since we launched. Recently we started a petition to increase the time limit to raise a tribunal claim for a case of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The current law says you have 3 months less 1 day from the time that discrimination occurs which simply isn’t long enough if you are pregnant or have just had a baby. We are asking the Government to extend it to 6 months.

The petition has been signed by 54,000 people and 59 MPs have supported our Early Day Motion. I am pretty proud of that!

 

What’s in your handbag/ satchel?

Nappies, wet wipes, nappy bags (old and new) bits of crisps and biscuits, some wrappers, a pack of mints and my wallet. The contents of my handbag were very different 5 years ago.

 

What are your ambitions in life?

I am not sure how to frame this without it sounding really cheesy – my ambition is to be happy, to have happy children, to be adventurous and to do all I can to create a more gender equal society.

 

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?

When I was younger, I lacked the confidence in my own ability that I have now. I wasn’t comfortable with public speaking and I rarely spoke up in meetings. Many women lack confidence in themselves and this can hold them back from fulfilling their potential.

The experience of being sacked because I was pregnant opened my eyes to a whole world of sexism and discrimination I never knew existed before. It made me see the world, and my place in it, in a very different way. This got me interested in feminism and I have since become a little obsessed with how women (and men!) are held back by patriarchy.

I realised that as women we are almost expected to stay quiet, that when we speak up we are often judged negatively by others – we are seen as bossy or controlling, whereas men are seen as leaders. Women tend to be less confident about their own abilities, yet so much research shows that when companies empower women and have a diverse workforce they are more successful. Women make excellent leaders and we should not let society tell us otherwise.

My confidence came from the realisation that I am smart, that I do have worthwhile things to say and that companies I work for and with will benefit from my experience and skills. Most women work below their level of competence for many reasons (read the Paula Principle!) We need to stop undervaluing ourselves and our abilities.

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I am so determined to progress Pregnant Then Screwed, to change the outlook for working mothers and to do this on a global scale. No country has gender equality, no country is immune from the motherhood penalty. This is a systemic, international problem that leaves women and families vulnerable and has a negative impact on society and our economy. In 5 years time, I hope Pregnant Then Screwed is an internationally recognised project and campaign which is changing the outlook for working mothers.

 

What advice would you give a budding gender equality campaigner?

Campaigning is hard. You start a campaign as you feel so passionately that something needs to change. You believe so deeply that the world should be focussing on this issue, yet at every turn, your words fall on deaf ears and you struggle to galvanise support. At first, it can feel like wading through treacle, but you must persevere because if you care about an issue, so do many other people, you just have to find them and when you do it is amazing what you can achieve.

One of the most important lessons I learnt is to ask for help, both in terms of finding the right skills for different jobs, but also in terms of distributing the workload. I am very lucky to have had many volunteers who have helped get Pregnant Then Screwed to where it is now and they continue to develop our campaigning work.

I would also advise a budding gender equality campaigner to: introduce themselves to similar organisations to get their support, to use social media to find your tribe and to build your message, to support other campaigns that you care about, to think about what your end goal is and the steps to get there and to start finding the journalists that will be sympathetic to your cause.

 

What do you now know about having kids which has surprised you?
Before I had children my spectrum of emotion was small. Until my first son was born I had never experienced such happiness, joy and elation mixed with such sadness, exhaustion and despair. I feel like this experience has made me more patient, more sympathetic and empathic. Children absorb such an enormous amount of your time, whatever it is I am doing, I weigh that up with whether it is worth it in comparison to spending time with my kids – that has made me pretty ruthless, I’m not interested in bullshit anymore, I don’t waste time on nonsense. I am productive and efficient and I only do something if I believe it has real meaning. Children are the best time management training money can buy.

Finally, happiness is…

Playing in the back garden with my two children when the sun is shinning and everyone is full of health and well rested!

 

 

Pregnant Then Screwed Crowdfunder: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/pregnantthenscrewed

Social media is: Twitter: @pregnantscrewed

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maternitydiscrimination/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pregnant_then_screwed/

Petition: http://www.change.org/givemesix

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4 Responses

  1. Joana Mateus

    What an inspirational lady and what a project. I had no idea this existed and will now be spreading the word!
    Joana Mateus recently posted…Lipstick MemoriesMy Profile

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  2. Pen

    Brilliant and initiative and brilliant interview. I cannot applaud Joeli Brearley enough. Pen x
    Pen recently posted…A personal note to a special personMy Profile

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