By Danielle Bucco
Those who are dealing with infertility understand how difficult it can be to decide who they are going to tell. Many want to maintain a level of privacy and only let certain friends and family members in on the news. Others, however, are more vocal about who they tell and explain it to coworkers, distant relatives, or neighbors. It is up to the individuals and couples themselves about what feels right for them and what would be the best decision for their family. Some also choose a third option like Katie Lelito. Katie is able to maintain two different identities, an online identity and a professional identity.
Katie is someone who is really passionate about advocating for infertility and did some great work at the University of Michigan (U-M) when she was a student there. She is very vocal online and in support groups about her story with infertility, however, none of her coworkers knew anything about her struggle to conceive at the time. She specifically wanted to maintain these two different identities because she found it can be much easier to be open online with a stranger as opposed to face to face. Katie only recently decided to break her anonymity by using her name for a few advocacy projects that she has been working on.
One of the ways Katie is active on the issue of infertility is to try and get employers to cover fertility treatments. She petitioned the University of Michigan to change their coverage policies and she was successful. University of Michigan gave all staff and students with grad care $20,000 max lifetime coverage for in vitro fertilization plus $10,000 drug coverage. This was an extremely important step in getting more employers to cover fertility treatments. She was also fortunate enough to bring this issue up with her own employer and was again, rewarded for her effort and passion with another success.
Katie’s success at U-M was a big turning point for this issue. Many people in the university setting are passionate about many issues, one of them being infertility and how it is viewed in the workplace. Universities are also important because it is a good way to start change. Many people look to them to take the first steps towards certain issues and fertility coverage is no different.
Moving forward, Katie hopes to continue to be an advocate for infertility. She encourages people who want to ask their employers for coverage to talk to her or to read a list of 13 ways to help approach the topic with employers. Approaching an employer about such an important and personal topic can be terrifying but if employers start to accept these coverage ideas, it could help change people’s lives forever. This is only one of the areas that Katie is interested in but she has helped to make a difference in workplaces and is an inspiration to others looking to do the same. You can also learn more from an interview Katie did with Beat Infertility by listening to it here.