This essay is written by Rose Langensiepen. Rose is the CEO of Above All Consulting, Inc. and Above All Angels, Inc. in Elk Grove, Calif., and is a part of Small Business Majority’s network of 58,000 entrepreneurs.
It’s hard to believe in 2018 there are still politicians, judges and activists who would limit women’s access to contraception and reproductive health services. Since October is Women’s Entrepreneurship Month, I want those who would deny women control over their own bodies to know that restricting a woman’s ability to choose if and when she has children also means taking away her right to control her economic destiny–and even her entrepreneurial dreams.
I am a solo entrepreneur who started an executive recruiting firm 10 years ago. I am also a naturalized U.S. citizen and a single mom of three. Although birth control was not a factor in starting my own company, it played a major part in allowing me to grow my business.
I decided to go into businesses for myself partly because I needed flexibility. I had two children with my then-husband before I turned 28, and my previous job didn’t offer daycare. What’s more, childcare was very expensive and I didn’t have any family nearby to help me. While being my own boss gave me the flexibility to care for my kids, birth control gave me the ability to care for my business.
After having my second child I started taking birth control pills because I knew it would be impossible for me to raise a third child and grow a business simultaneously. I was both proactive and diligent about gathering information on contraception and the options I had, because I had a vision for my business. I’m grateful I had these options and information available to me.
The pill allowed me to get my business off the ground while caring for my two boys. It also meant I never had to make hard choices about prioritizing my family or my business: While I would certainly choose family in the event of a major conflict, not having to choose was a gift. After all, I didn't want to start this business and have anything come between me and success. Plus, I had the added advantage of getting to see my children grow up without missing a beat!
Access to birth control was vital to my economic empowerment, and I’m not alone. A scientific opinion poll conducted on behalf of Small Business Majority found 56 percent of women small business owners say their access to birth control and to decide if and when to have children allowed them to advance in their career and start their business. Additionally, almost two-thirds of female small business owners (63 percent) said access to birth control impacted their family’s economic security. This is particularly true for women of color, who are responsible for starting 79 percent of women-owned businesses since 2007.
As a single mom, it’s almost impossible to totally separate my business life from my personal life. I’m sure many women have similar experiences. I would advise any woman looking to start a business to first make a detailed business plan, and second to make a life plan. Whether or not birth control is part of those plans, however, it must remain an option. Without that choice, we will jeopardize nearly one-third of all small businesses in this country.
Access to contraception isn’t just a health issue or a moral issue. It’s also an economic issue, and it’s a choice we cannot afford to eliminate.