When I was completing my bachelor's degree, I took a course on feminism. I loved the course because it exposed me to the history of women's rights and the various definitions of what a "true" feminist is. Truthfully, I thought that women in modern America were equal to men and that I didn't need to actively fight for women's rights.
After completing my degree, I worked for different businesses and had the goal to become both a CEO and a mom. However, shortly after I started my career, I experienced firsthand what it was like to be stereotyped as a woman in business.
Everything was going well and I was receiving promotions, but I hit the glass ceiling shortly after I got married. My boss told me how worried he was about me, because he thought I would trade my love of business for my love for a baby. Promotions would be prefaced with the "When Are You Planning on Having Children" talk. Increasingly, I found myself justifying my dedication to the business and trying to convince the businessmen that I was really a long-term employee. Moreover, when I was searching for a new job, I was encouraged by a male mentor to take a mediocre job because "soon you will be pregnant and you won't care anymore."
These men simply couldn't separate "woman" and "stay-at-home mom."
I'll never forget working hard for a company and presenting a proposal that I would execute and my boss said, "I'm really hesitant about pursuing this because you're probably going to have kids soon. Maybe I should execute the plan?" There's nothing more deflating than working your ass off for a company and getting turned down because of your biological makeup to birth children and supposedly have your "priorities change" in the future. These men simply couldn't separate "woman" and "stay-at-home mom."
As their comments continued, I felt a growing resentment because I couldn't fulfill their prophesy if I wanted to (which I didn't). In dramatic irony, my husband and I are infertile and were dealing with that privately. The stereotype I was experiencing was frustratingly painful, because I was getting a "no" from my body and a "no" from businessmen because of a baby I couldn't have. Sometimes I felt like yelling, "PROMOTE ME! I'M INFERTILE!"
After five years of working for other businesses, I decided to take matters into my own hands and now own my own business with a partner. I don't have to prove to myself that I am committed to being a CEO and hopefully being a mom one day.
I have kept quiet about my struggles, mostly because I worried about businesses seeing me as a liability and not wanting to work with me in the future. Yet at a certain point, I knew I had to take a leap to bring awareness to the reality that women face in business. Owning a business has freed me to talk more openly about some of the stereotypes and sexism I experienced. I know that there are women who are in the situation I was in who can't speak out for fear of losing their job, seeming too oversensitive, or being seen as not willing to put their head down and work. Or they just don't want the world to know that they're going through infertility.
My hope is that I bring awareness to what it's like to be both a stereotyped woman in business with infertility and a woman in business in general. Sadly, there are many more examples I could have given that involve both me and other women in business. I have realized through this journey that there is still a need to fight for women's rights in modern America, and speaking openly about it is part of my contribution. We shouldn't have to disclose our infertility to get a promotion. What is it going to take for change?