Campaign launches to end the silencing of women by NDA’s

It has been two years since Harvey Weinstein’s NDA scandal first broke and a new campaign highlights the misuse of NDA’s across the industry.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


How do you solve a problem like Non-Disclosure-Agreements? This is the question that campaigning group Pregnant Then Screwed is seeking to solve with a social media campaign that will see 12 strong female voices silenced across social media for 12 hours. The social media gag is running for 12 hours on Saturday 5th October, the two-year anniversary of when the Harvey Weinstein story first broke.

The campaign highlights how far society still has to go to address maternity discrimination and sexual harassment. The organisation is calling on the government to set up an independent body to monitor the use of NDAs to help meet this challenge.

The 12 women who feature in the campaign include the founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, Joeli Brearley, Hannah Bardell MP, Gina Martin, Dr Sue Black, Helen Pankhurst, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Deeba Syed and Christine Armstrong.

Joeli Brearley, Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, says the organisation is launching the campaign to shine a light on the fact that employers are still using NDA’s to gag and silence women. She believes that lifting the lid on the secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding NDA’s will fundamentally shift business. She explains, “How are we ever going to fix a problem that we can’t see?”

How are we ever going to fix a problem that we can’t see?

Joeli Brearley

Change requires transparency

According to Brearly, non-disclosure agreements are used “very regularly” within maternity discrimination cases. She points to the government database for tribunal statistics where the majority of cases are settled before they are heard, as contributing to a climate in which patterns of discrimination cannot be addressed or recognised. “More often than not women don’t even get to tribunal. We know of many different companies who have won awards for gender equality, yet they are still discriminating against vulnerable women,” she explains.

The Women’s Equality and Select Committee is making changes to legislation; if women who have signed an NDA have been the victim of a criminal act, they can report it to the police. Yet, as Brearley explains, “nobody knows what is happening with maternity discrimination as it isn’t a criminal defence.”

In a legal framework in which just 0.6% of women who have experienced maternity discrimination will make it to a tribunal, Brearley urges urgent action. She explains, “Currently NDA’s can get [people] out of going through the process. Until we radically reform the entire system, it’s not a perfect solution but an independent body for women who sign NDA agreements would allow oversight and the ability to see if patterns are emerging.”

Two years since #MeToo

She believes that not much has happened within the two years since the #MeToo movement hit the headlines, because it has been a “brick wall within business.” She also noted the growing noise surrounding men being frightened about being with women in work situations.

Yet a fundamental shift is impacting the movement. Brearley explained that social media has been crucial to the campaign reaching the right people. “Instagram is the place where people can connect, and it has helped to build a real sense of community around women’s stories to drive change.”

Companies are not going to regulate unless their reputations are tarnished.

Joeli Brearley

Transparency for change

Brearley notes that it is greater transparency that will drive change. She explains, “Companies are not going to regulate unless their reputations are tarnished. Shareholders need to be made aware of what is going on. We need to find new ways of allowing women to speak out.”

The government is currently running a consultation for sexual harassment. Under the current model an employee only has three months in which to report sexual harassment or maternity discrimination. It’s a time limit Brearly believes is in-humane: “We know this is a massive issue; an enormous amount of women will suffer mental health issues after these experiences. Their confidence is torn to shreds.”


Brearly urged companies to ensure that systems and processes for reporting were in place at companies. A number of the world’s biggest agency networks currently have anonymous reporting lines.

For those who have experienced discrimination and harassment and ended up signing an NDA, Brearly urges people who have experienced discrimination not to turn the trauma of that experience in on themselves. She noted, “Women are made to feel problematic, particularly when they have babies. That simply isn’t the case.”

If you have been a victim of maternity discrimination, you can call Pregnant Then Screwed’s free legal helpline on 0161 930 5300. NABS runs a free impartial and confidential advice line for anyone in the industry who needs support or guidance surrounding these issues on 0800 707 6607.

Voices for Change

Pregnant Then Screwed has collected 3,000 anonymous stories; human stories to drive change. Here are three of those from the advertising and marketing industry.