After a female scientist's invitation to speak at a conference was allegedly revoked due to her pregnancy, a group of women rallied around her with a social media campaign.
Earlier in 2015, Dr. Samantha Decombel was invited to give a lecture at the European Comission-sponsored Euraxess scientific conference in Belgium. As a young female scientist and entrepreneur, she was excited for opportunity to speak about her work, but when it came time to book travel, her request to travel by train due to her pregnancy raised a red flag for organizers, CNN reports.
This week, Decombel posted an Instagram photo of the email she received from European Commission representatives, reportedly uninviting her from the event because she was seven months pregnant. "Our colleagues from the European Commission are not very enthusiastic to take a risk for your health making you travel to Brussels at the late stage of your pregnancy," reads the email.
Decombel shared her response to the email in the caption. "As I am sure you are aware, one of the key hurdles facing many women in science and entrepreneurship is the desire to start a family, and how this will fit in with their career plans," she wrote, adding, "I do not intend to put the brakes on my ambitions until I need to, and would encourage others to consider why we lay this guilt on female researchers that wish to have both a career and a family.
"Turning away a pregnant speaker, who is in excellent health and has voluntarily agreed to travel to voice her opinions at this event seems to me to be the perfect demonstration of why this is still such an issue for many, and the absolute opposite of what I would hope the European Commission would want to convey," she continued. "I cannot see what risk my presence at this event would represent for the EC, and hope you will reconsider your decision to withdraw my voice on account of what should be considered a perfectly natural occurrence that likely around half of your audience will experience at some stage in their lives."
After Decombel shared her story on social media, many fellow moms posted photos of themselves at work, at the gym and otherwise being active during the same stage in their pregnancies. They tweeted their images and stories in solidarity with Decombel in her fight against pregnancy discrimination with the hashtag #7monthsawesome.
While these photos and tweets were wonderfully supportive, some have pointed out that not every pregnant woman's experience is so positive, and there is no "normal" that applies to all moms. Acknowledging that many pregnancies have complications and can limit a mom's ability to remain active, the underlying message remains the same: Decisions about what is safe and possible for an expectant mother at any stage in her pregnancy should remain between the woman and her healthcare provider.
As for Decombel, the European Commission issued a statement to Today admitting fault in the way her situation was handled. "Dr. Decombel's story really flies in the face of the European Commission's own 'DNA.' We have written directly to Dr. Decombel to apologize for her regrettable experience," the statement reads. "Something went wrong and we are sorry. We are looking to ensure that this inappropriate behavior won't happen again."
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