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Rent the Runway CEO: How Birth Control Helped Me Succeed

Dec. 5, 2017

'It’s shocking to me that in 2017, we’re still having this debate'

Today is the last day in the official comment period to voice our opinions on President Donald Trump’s administration’s move to roll back the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate. This is mine — I encourage you to make one, too.

As a woman and the CEO of a company that counts more than 70% of its employees as women, continuing to provide access to birth control coverage is a no-brainer. I do not need to wait to have my employees tell me that they fear losing access to contraception coverage — I know they need and deserve it.

The Trump administration recently introduced a new birth control rule that put the fate of millions of women’s birth control coverage in the hands of their employers, even though a majority of Americans believe that birth control should be treated as a basic aspect of health care. Employers are now able to opt out of providing coverage for moral or religious reasons. This is a direct attack on health care that women rely on, as more than 99% of sexually active women of childbearing age in the U.S. have used birth control.

When I co-founded Rent the Runway, I couldn’t afford work-life balance. Said more simply, 2009 would not have been an optimal year in my life to start a family. I had student loans and minimal financial safety net. I personally relied on family planning when I made the choice to fully focus on building and maintaining the stability of the company for myself and my employees.

If we want half the leadership in every industry to be female, women will have to make bold career steps in their 20s and 30s — the exact timeframe when we’re also encouraged to have children, if we want to be mothers. To accomplish both career and familial goals, every woman needs the ability to plan when it makes the most sense for her to get pregnant. I had my first child eight months ago at the age of 36. It was the right time for me, and I thank birth control for enabling me to control this important choice and its timing.

Many of the gains women have made since the 1960s and 70s — in planning their families, obtaining education, entering the workforce and moving closer to pay equity — have been aided by access to birth control. It’s shocking to me that in 2017, we’re still having this debate.

While women’s health continues to be politicized, companies and their leaders have the power to make a difference. I hope my peers in the business world realize they have a critical role to play in supporting women in the workforce by providing their employees with access to birth control.

Jennifer Hyman is the Co-Founder and CEO of Rent the Runway. Rent the Runway recently joined the growing list of major companies to join the #BusinessForBC campaign and stand with its employees to protect their birth control coverage.

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