Co-founder and CEO of Houzz, Adi Tatarko; Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani; and Entrepreneur and SVP of Cisco, Amy Chang — all are immigrant powerhouses who’ve made their way to the top of their companies. And while immigrant women make up 13 percent of the nation’s female population and workforce they still face immense challenges on each rung of the ladder. The reality is, when it comes to rising the ranks in the professional world, immigrant women are far less likely than U.S. born women to hold management roles. At the highest levels, immigrant women are disproportionately underrepresented due to systemic barriers, including poverty, quality education, racism, and other challenges on the path to legal citizenship.
BossmakeHer is on a mission to disrupt the system and provide opportunities for immigrant women to be hired at the top starting with our very own.
June was Immigrant Heritage Month, and before it’s a wrap, wanted to take a moment to celebrate our very own powerhouse, Community Host, Jenai Maurits — who recently finalized her citizenship!
Originally from Belgium, Jenai immigrated to the U.S. almost 8 years ago on a mission to advocate for women’s rights. Learn more about Jenai’s story and read her advice on how you can advocate, support and create inclusive spaces for your immigrant employees, colleagues, neighbors, constituents and friends.
- Tell us about yourself and your role at BossmakeHer.
I’m 32 years old and I live in Austin, Texas with my two children. I have my own business as a marketing consultant which I’ve been running for the last 5 years. I work with BossmakeHer as their community host and love helping other women grow.
- What is your immigration story?
I moved to this country almost 8 years ago. I’m originally from Belgium but I was living between Monterrey, Mexico and Santiago, Chile for 7 years before that, advocating for women’s rights.
I moved here to give my children a good and stable life. When I first moved here, I started going to college right away. I learned everything I could about business management, started networking, and began my business a few years later.
I applied for US citizenship a few months ago, got approved, and took my citizenship oath on June 21st.
I love the opportunity in this country! I’ve lived in 17 countries (Yes, I used to love to travel!) and I’ve never seen any country give you the option to go from nothing to thriving. It takes hard work for sure, but the opportunity for growth is always there if you have determination.
- Why are you on the BossmakeHer mission?
I love BossmakeHer’s mission and I believe in it. Providing women with opportunity is something I am deeply passionate about. The time of women being denied a seat at the table is long over and, although we’ve made incredible progress in the last decade, we’re not there yet.
The hope for equal opportunities for women worldwide lies in changing mindsets about women’s place in society. I believe the champions of this issue will be educated women with the passion and focus needed to combat this giant. That is where BossmakeHer comes in.
- What are some of the challenges you have faced? How have you overcome them?
I have faced many challenges in my life to get to where I am now: prejudice, fighting gender stereotypes, poverty and hard times, etc.
I’ve overcome them all through sheer determination and leaning on other strong women for support.
- What do you call upon executives and leaders to do in order to advocate, support and create safe, inclusive spaces for their immigrant employees, colleagues, constituents, neighbors, and friends? What changes need to occur within corporate America to ensure more immigrants have a seat at the table where decisions are being made?
Really it comes down to giving people a chance, keeping an open mind, and being aware of the daily challenges that immigrants might be facing.
A major mindset change needs to occur to realize that the stereotype of immigrants being lazy, stealing jobs, and generally being an inconvenience needs to be done away with. We have proved time and time again our work ethic, ideas, and value.
I now know the value I bring to companies but for the longest time, I felt insecure about people finding out I’m not American because of the stigma that comes with it. That shouldn’t be the case.
Thank you so much Jenai for sharing your story with the BossmakeHer community. We are proud to have you on our team and a part of our mission of hiring diverse women at the top!
- Status of Women in the United Status: Spotlight on Immigrant Women