Women’s Leadership Network Group Encouraged to Develop Advocacy Skills

Mollie Walker, Simmons Bank VP and Managing Director of Business Development, Addresses Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Network

Mollie Walker, VP and Managing Director of Business Development for Simmons Bank in Collierville, addressed a sold-out crowd of 80 women at the Collierville Chamber of Commerce’s April Women’s Leadership Network luncheon, held April 21 at the Ridgeway Country Club.

While Walker’s topic was “Developing the Advocate Within,” she focused on her personal experiences dealing with infertility and developing an advocacy group on behalf of women and men struggling with the disease and its frequently overwhelming financial costs. Walker introduced Lauren Brown, her friend and co-founder with Walker of Tennessee Fertility Advocates, the largest grassroots infertility advocacy group in the country, with over 7000 advocates across Tennessee. Walker also expressed her appreciation to her mother, grandmother and mother-in-law who were all in attendance at the luncheon.

In an often emotionally charged talk, Walker addressed the range of issues families face when dealing with infertility. Citing her struggle with various treatments as she and her husband dealt with “months and months of failed pregnancy tests,” she gave credit to medical doctors and professional counselors who guided and supported her to the birth of her daughter Lawson and several years later, her son, Noah. The journey was complete with various medications, depression, miscarriages and a growing understanding for the need for advocacy.

Walker called upon the audience to understand the stigma that families dealing with infertility face and become sensitives to the well-meaning, but frequently painful, comments often made: “It could be worse,” “Just adopt,” “Quit stressing and it will happen,” or “It only took us a couple months to conceive.”

Continuing with the advocacy theme, Walker recalled the day that she finally said ‘enough’ and began to understand the need to “advocate for yourself.” Depression due to infertility can be as challenging as depression in those with life-challenging diseases, and she discussed her use of journaling, counseling and therapy, learning to say “no”, removing personal identity from the disease, making time for physical exercise, appreciating quiet time, examining financial options, and exploring employee resource groups. Walker noted, “Suffering in silence is not okay.”

Discussing the various treatments available for those dealing with infertility (medications, minimally-invasive assisted reproduction techniques, intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization and others) Walker reminded the audience that when it comes to the reasons for infertility, 1/3 of the causes are female; 1/3 are male, and 1/3 are unknown.

Using videos to enhance the heartbreaking individual stories of infertility and the barrier of often overwhelming costs associated with the disease, Walker encouraged audience members to “advocate for others” by getting involved in such groups as Tennessee Fertility Advocates, using social media to expand awareness and sensitivity, advocating for pro-family legislation and insurance coverage of infertility, considering the next generation of families, and advocating for those in your own sphere of influence.

Attendees expressed their appreciation for Mollie Walker’s presentation with a standing ovation.

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