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How Inclusive Benefits Changed My Life — and My Family

1/28/2021
— Anjelica Sloan, Sr Director, Content and Channel Strategy 

WE was recently designated a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign for the third year running, earning a perfect score of 100 points from their Corporate Equality Index. To celebrate, Anjelica Sloan, senior director of content and channel strategy, shares her family’s story.​

 

When my wife and I started family planning five years ago, like most couples, we were filled with excitement, trepidation and a lot of confusion. In addition to navigating fertility tests, we also had to begin the process of understanding how to get pregnant and the costs associated with it.

As we quickly learned, conceiving was going to require a great deal of preparation, timing and financial planning. The costs for artificial insemination and donor specimens were extremely high, especially for the in-home path we were pursuing, which cost approximately $1,200 per attempt, with a success rate of 10 to 20%.

Fortunately, after three attempts, we conceived our daughter, whom we welcomed in March 2017.

Although my wife and I always considered having a second child, the high costs associated with our conception efforts were a significant concern. Then, in the fall of 2018, I opened our open enrollment benefits mail from HR, which informed us of new fertility coverage. I immediately texted my wife, “The agency just made a commitment to inclusive benefits — we are covered if we want to try again!”

 

Rethinking employee benefits

In 2019, WE Communications was designated a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index. It’s an achievement that not only reflects how company leaders value their people, but also their commitment to do what it takes to act on those values.

Throughout 2018, the agency took significant steps to evaluate WE’s employee benefits, resulting in an expansion of benefits to ensure our healthcare program was fully compliant with HRC best practices for transgender employees, and revamped fertility benefits to fit the needs of both opposite and same sex couples.

When our daughter turned 2, we decided to start trying for a second child. With our new health care coverage, we pursued fertility methods with the help of a midwifery team at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Although we had been fortunate with limited attempts to conceive our daughter, the same did not prove true for our second journey; it resulted in numerous attempts, including one miscarriage.

While it was heartbreaking to experience the rollercoaster of excitement and disappointment after each attempt, knowing our coverage protected us from incurring a significant financial burden helped lessen some of our stress — enough that we decided to keep trying.

After numerous attempts, we finally conceived our son, whom we welcomed in July 2020.

To my knowledge, mine is the first LGBTQIA family at WE to take advantage of these benefits to build our family. Following the birth of our son — and the generous 12-week, 100% paid family leave offered by the agency — I returned to work and my additional role as a co-lead of the WE Pride employee resource group (ERG). Ever since, I’ve been eager to find ways to evangelize these benefits internally among our staff so they can also take advantage of them and/or understand the commitment to equality for all people made by the agency. After all, as our medical providers consistently told us, this level of company commitment to inclusive benefits is rare — you are fortunate.

 

Inclusive benefits evolve with employees’ needs

As we celebrate WE Communications’ designation by the HRC as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for the third year in a row, I applaud agency leadership’s never-ceasing commitment to learn from their employees and ensure they are evaluating and providing benefits that are inclusive to all, regardless of how they identify.

And it’s not only that the company makes these benefits available — it’s how they actively support employees along such a personal, potentially overwhelming journey. My family benefited from a lot of behind-the-scenes assistance from our HR department. From being prompt and steadfast in helping me navigate our coverage, to consistently asking questions to evaluate my experience and inform how they moved forward, the HR department committed to understanding the needs of our LGBTQIA community and how to best offer support. The effort the agency has shown goes way beyond a “check a box and acquire another designation” approach. WE continues to prove that its goal is to authentically support all employees in their pursuits of health and happiness, both in work and in life. Our leaders are acutely aware of their influence at that intersection. As a gay person, starting a family can be daunting. Never could I have imagined how much that pursuit could be supported — and even encouraged — by my employer.

I recently shared this story with our WE Pride ERG, going deeper on the costs associated with conceiving each of our kids and discussing the cost variation in coverage between our first and second child. Part of that presentation included noting that donor (sperm or egg) specimens were not covered, and highlighting the high out-of-pocket cost associated with such. Later, an HR partner reached out to me to thank me for raising this, and to inform me that moving forward in 2021, the agency will cover donor eggs and sperm. Even despite all the support we’ve already received, I admit to being astonished. I asked something along the lines of, “You can do that? It’s that simple!?” to which the HR partner responded, “We just need our employees to inform us of what their needs are.”

This, essentially, is the ethos of WE. Listening, learning and evolving, never in executive silos, but rather from a craving of input and guidance from employees on what is working, what is not and what our needs are — then moving swiftly to consider and address our feedback.

At WE, we enjoy being among some of the best storytellers in the industry; we’re able to contribute externally to myriad client challenges and opportunities. But internally, I hope we’ll each remember that if and when we share, our own stories are powerful. As our leaders so eagerly demonstrate, we can influence change for good.