This week, Donald Trump made headlines when the New York Times reported
he called lawyer Elizabeth Beck "disgusting" during a deposition because she needed to take a break to pump for her three-month-old daughter. Beck had taken out her pump to express the urgency of the situation when Trump refused to pause the session; Trump's lawyer, Alan Garten, explained that Beck's action was what sparked The Donald's rude comment. “In my 20 years of legal practice, I’ve never seen more bizarre behavior at a deposition," Garten told the Times
(referring to Beck's request, not Trump's outburst). Why is this attitude still acceptable, let alone widespread? Breast-pumping at work is something thousands of women do each day — and it's high time they were provided with the support they need.
When President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it included the provision
that companies with more than 50 employees must provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." But what happens when companies don't follow this law? Glassbreakers CEO Eileen Carey wrote an open letter
to WeWork, the coworking company that was named among Fast Company's most innovative businesses
, reprimanding them for not providing a space for women to pump: "We were shocked to discover that though there are kegs to pump WeWork beer at every kitchen, there isn’t a designated lactation room on any of the seven floors for members to pump breast milk."
This is a problem for so many new mothers who need to pump but don't have the space or support to do so. WeWork responded, saying that it would look into fixing this problem, but as one mother — who wrote into Refinery29 with her own breast-pumping story — pointed out, often "the onus is on the mother to speak up for herself. And that, particularly after having been away for maternity leave, can be isolating or politically damaging." She continued:
It all depends on the office, on the leadership, on the robustness of the HR department, and on the culture of the workplace. Balance this on top of other battles of returning to the workplace as a mom: perhaps overworking to demonstrate your value to the organization, trying hard to avoid being put on a "mommy track," figuring out how to feel comfortable/justified leaving at a certain time to pick up your child or relieve a sitter, and really, just shifting gears back into spending most of your hours doing something totally different than caring for your child. It's too much.
In order to normalize breast-pumping at work, we need to be more open with our stories. Ahead, 10 women share theirs.