If you want to compete in a man’s world, you better not have a baby. The Science Faculty of the University of New South Wales says they can prove women experience significant deficits in memory for a year or more after childbirth. Apparently this memory deficit significantly impairs the ability of mothers to perform complex and multiple tasks. Not only is this research just another example of the scientific community’s obsession with studying female reproduction and it’s link to all things wrong with the world, it could be potentially damaging to the status of women in the workplace.
“The memory deficits many women experience during and after pregnancy are pretty much like the modest deficits you’d find when comparing healthy 20-year-olds with healthy 60-year-olds,” says Dr Julie Henry, a psychology researcher at the University of New South Wales, who conducted the study with Associate Professor Peter Rendell, of the Australian Catholic University.
In the first investigation of its kind, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the results of 14 different research studies around the world since 1990 where the memory performances of more than 1,000 pregnant women, mothers and healthy non-pregnant females had been compared. They found that pregnant women are significantly impaired on some, but not all, measures of memory and that they experience most difficulty with tasks that rely on “executive cognitive control” that is, memory tasks where novelty or significant effort is involved.
“Regular, well-practised memory tasks – such as remembering phone numbers of friends and family members – are unlikely to be affected,” says Associate Professor Rendell. “It’s a different story, though, when you have to remember new phone numbers, people’s names or hold in mind several different pieces of information, such as when multi-tasking .” There you have it folks, all the employers who have fired or demoted a woman after she had a baby can now say ‘I told you so’.
Researchers say the results indicate that the impairment — dubbed “baby brain” – is still evident a year after childbirth. Since none of the studies has extended beyond that time, it is not known how long the deficit continues. Hmmm. Does this mean we can assume that childbirth is responsible for women’s inability to compete with men in the workplace?
Nor do scientists know why a woman’s memory should be impaired at such an important time, although several theories have been put forward. “Although we have no experimental evidence for it, our suspicion is that lifestyle factors are relevant,” Dr Henry says. “In pregnancy your normal routines are disrupted and you can suffer sleep deprivation after the birth: we know from other research that either of those things can affect cognitive performance.” Of course researchers haven’t bothered studying the effects of sleep deprivation on fathers of young children.
So there you have it folks, more ammunition for employers who are just looking for an excuse to terminate the employment of women after the birth of their first child. If this study and others like it are to be believed, women become less capable than their male colleagues for up to a year or more after childbirth.
I had to laugh at the suggestion that women become less capable of multi-tasking after the birth of a child. As any mother or father will tell you, the complete opposite is true. Mothers are highly skilled at performing multiple tasks. But perhaps the researchers don’t consider raising children as requiring any brains, unlike working in a science faculty of a university.
I am so sick and tired of seeing these BS research studies of female reproduction. What I want to know is why conduct studies like these in the first place? What purpose does it actually serve, other than to further devalue the role of mothers in our society?
We all know new mothers and fathers are sleep deprived. But to generalise like this and say women are less capable of performing more complex tasks after childbirth is a slap in the face to mothers everywhere. As if women don’t find it hard enough to hold on to their position in the workplace after returning from maternity leave. When studies like this one are published, it makes it even harder for women to achieve equality with men in the workplace.