Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All
Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All | Foto: Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

Por: Magret Martinez

15, August, 2022 en Luxury Trending

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

Evie Jeang is a mother, a founder, an attorney, and an advocate. She is a multitude of things to a community of people. A testament that a woman is only limited by what she holds over herself.

Words by Timothy Diao

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All
Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

In 2017, Evie Jeang founded Surrogacy Concierge, a service agency that provides assistance and support to people intending to become parents through assisted reproductive technology. More than just a venture, it’s an amalgamation of professional and personal experiences that shaped this stage of her life.

For over two decades, Evie has practiced international family law, where she finds herself akin to the children caught in the crossfires of a divorce or separation. She has dedicated her career to serving her community—whether for immigrants, women, Asian-Americans, surrogacy, and more.

“…It always has to do about the community,” Evie shares. “So I wanted my work to deal with children or women’s rights. I want to use what I learned from my own experiences [as a child of divorced parents and as an immigrant] to help others that went through the same thing as me. I realized that everything I chose to do had something to do with my personal life experience.”

Through her surrogacy business, Evie helps expectant parents navigate the tricky surrogacy process. Coming from a firsthand perspective, she understands how daunting the whole process can be, so she strives to be an advocate and supporter of her clients.

“It was so confusing for me when I went through it. I’m a lawyer, and still, there were so many contracts going on. You have a contract with the doctor, a contract with the surrogate, and a contract with the surrogacy agency. It was difficult for me to understand this process. I can only imagine for someone who doesn’t have any legal experience,” she explains how the idea of her business came about.

Evie wants to help give children the best possible future through her work. Whether that’s having their best intentions at heart when navigating a family law case or through her non-profit organization, Raised By A Village, where a community helps provide the fundamental needs of a child to ensure that they’re well-provided for.

“I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s about community. We all need to take care of each other. Like I said, my power is limited, but if I can join a group of people, I think we can make more of a difference.”

We talked to Evie Jeang about her career (what drives her in dealing with challenging family law cases), her journey to motherhood (how this shaped her outlook on life and women), and her advocacies (what this taught her about the community).

Did you always want to be a lawyer? Did you grow up in an environment that supported that dream of yours?

I wanted to be a judge. I thought judges were powerful people. And all the lawyers had to argue before the judge and wait for their decision. And judges make decisions that affect people’s lives.

And yes, my grandmother would take me to the courthouse before. We would ride her bike to the courthouse to watch judges conducting their hearings.

What kind of law did you want to practice growing up or when you started your career?

My family told me never to become a family attorney because my parents got divorced when I was four. I grew up with my grandparents in Taiwan, and then, I moved to the states when I was twelve.

My mom told me, “The last thing you want to do as an attorney is to break a family apart. But somehow, I fell into practicing family law and am good at it.

I love it because I realized there are emotions involved in the practice, and it’s all about love. And I wanted to find a career where I was helping others—while making decent money. So somehow, family law served what I wanted to do in my life.

You also started your career working in compensations and employment and as a county council for child support. How did you get into that line of the law?

I worked for the government at the child support office. And when I was there, I would have to go to the dads who weren’t providing financial child support. I had to go to the worker’s board to collect money for the kids.

But after law school, I had student loans to pay. So, I joined a private law firm to pay off my loans.

But I didn’t enjoy working on workers’ compensation as much. I couldn’t relate to it because my dad has a small business, and I saw him getting into trouble with employees because he didn’t understand the law. It’s tough for small businesses to make a living in California.

When I was there, I just wanted to make sure I could pay all my student loans as soon as possible. I then thought of starting a law firm once those were paid off.

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All
Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

Why was working for the government better compared to the private sector before?

Becoming a judge was still in the back of my head. And working for the government sector might help me in my judicial career. I also felt that doing workers’ compensation for state employees, like for the fire or police department, was more aligned with what I believed in—I was able to help others in the process.

So you wanted your career to be an act of service?

It always had to be for me. If I’m doing something, it always has to do about the community. So I wanted my work to deal with children or women’s rights. I want to use what I learned from my own experiences [as a child of divorced parents and as an immigrant] to help others that went through the same thing as me.

I’m an immigrant, and my family members are immigrants. And that’s what I’m saying, I understand the employees when I was handling workers’ compensation, but my father was also an immigrant that opened a small business. He doesn’t know labor law. Not because he doesn’t want to violate it. He just doesn’t know.

And then, my mom was a waitress, raising my sister and me as a single mom in a different country. She also experienced working hard at two Chinese restaurants just to send us to private schools.

I realized that everything I chose to do had something to do with my personal life experience.

When you started your law firm Ideal Legal Group Inc in 2006, did you intend to focus on international family law?

I used my experience in child support services and workers’ compensation when I opened my practice. But I saw that I started to have more and more family law cases, and I found that that’s where my talents were. Many of the people who came to my practice were immigrants, like myself. They have families overseas. They don’t speak English that well. And they wanted to get divorced, but they didn’t know what they were supposed to do or how to do it.

But it also goes back to the kids. I realized I was that kid before, going back and forth between my mom and dad. And then, my dad came to the United States. My mom was in Taiwan but left for the United States to have a better life or the American dream. And my grandparents raised my sister and me.

So when I’m doing family law, I can relate with the children. Not necessarily the dad or mom but the kids that are involved. It’s the same at child support services when I was trying to get money for the children and their school and food.

It’s always about helping the kids survive through the separation. And how it affects them. Their interest is always my interest because I was that child. Family law is important because I want to make sure that when children are involved, they don’t have to suffer or have the same experience as I did.

Considering how your family feels about family law, did you experience an internal struggle at the beginning of your career and practice?

Yeah, I did. But then I realized I was good at it and thought about why I was good at it. And then I realized it’s because I can relate to the children. And then I had a conversation with my parents. It was the first time I spoke to them about how the divorce affected me. By doing that, I also realized the trauma I suffered as a little girl. I just want to make sure no other kids have to feel the same way as I did.

Are there parenthood lessons you’ve learned from practicing family law?

Because of my own family experience and doing family law, I thought I never wanted to have children. I thought I never wanted to get married.

One of my best friends has breast cancer, and she underwent chemo. That’s how I decided to freeze my eggs—when my girlfriend froze hers. She said, ‘You never know what’s going to happen. You might change your mind. It’s just like buying life insurance.’ And I’m so glad that I listened to her advice.

And then a year went by, I was getting older and, to be honest with you, I didn’t want to spend more money on freezing costs. I decided to have a child on my own. Having a child, I realized that family law is not just about helping the child get through the divorce. But it’s also about creating love. In family law, I expanded the assisted reproductive technology law called A-R-T. With that, I help couples who want to have children. I can draft their contracts for donors and find a surrogate.

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All
Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

What was starting a law firm like for you, especially as an Asian-American woman?

I always just thought, why not try it? Right? I didn’t have anything when I started it. It was just me. I didn’t have kids. I was young, working hard at a law firm, trying to make it as a partner. But being a woman and being Asian was almost like being trapped. It is hard to reach where I think I want to be in the legal field, especially where partners are still predominantly white and male—if you look at most law firms. But I still had a dream. I was thinking, how long could I do this? I was working long hours while still working for someone else. Why don’t I just start my firm, and I can be my own partner? If worst comes to worst, I had nothing to lose.

I thought about expenses. I started by doing that and had my own practice. When I had enough money, I hired a friend’s sister. She was a stay-at-home mom who decided to find a part-time job because her kids were older. She was my first secretary, my first employee.

Slowly, over 15 years, my practice became Ideal Legal Group Inc. We also have law firms in San Francisco and Orange County, and we had an office in New York before, which we closed down because traveling was inconvenient, especially during COVID.

If you don’t mind me asking, how was your experience with surrogacy?

I froze my eggs when I was around 30 years old. I wasn’t sure if I would have kids or get married. And people always made 30 a big number for women. My family, maybe for being Asian or being a woman, used to say, ‘well, your eggs are not getting any younger.’ But I wasn’t ready. And it was also because of my own family experience—that was so bad during the divorce. I didn’t see the same path for me because I didn’t see it as a good path. I saw my parents fighting all the time, and the kids suffered. So it wasn’t something I looked up to. I wasn’t sure if being a mother was something I wanted to do.

If not for my girlfriend telling me to freeze my eggs in case I change my mind. I think I probably would not have a child. I would never experience the unconditional love of being a parent. I want to experience everything at least once. I think of unconditional love, and how you experience it the most is through your child’s love. But more for the lived experience of this great, unconditional love.

As for surrogacy, I had a surrogate to carry my son because, during one of the freezing processes, the doctor discovered that I have a big tumor in my uterus. I wouldn’t be able to carry a baby, even if I wanted to. And this is the reason why I wrote a children’s book called “This Is How Much We Love You.” It was a book for my son to explain how he came about.

As a kid grows older, they’re going to come to you and ask mom, dad, how did I come about? Where did I come from? So, you have to decide whether you tell the child the truth or make up a story. And I believe that you should always tell the truth. And, so I told my son the truth. I said, “mommy has a grapefruit-sized ball in her stomach. And it was so big that I just can’t get you inside my stomach. And just like that, he understood it. He looked at me, and he said, mommy, you’re right. I’m too big for your stomach.

It gave me an idea. There must be more children born and raised this way. Where the parent/s probably struggle to explain where the child comes and I never want any child to feel less than others, because they are different. I want them to embrace the difference. This is why I came up with the children’s book, ‘This is How Much We Love You’ to make children feel and understand how much they are all loved.

Despite the circumstances, they are a choice. Their parents chose to have them.

Did your outlook on life and your career shift when you became a mother?

I realized that everything we do should come from something bigger than ourselves. I don’t know how to explain that in detail. What I know is that by having a child, I realized that there are more generations and other people after me. And we are all going to leave this world.

You get to ask yourself what will happen to the world after I’m gone? So I think having a child gives you a different perspective about your purpose in life, and how limited your time here is.

What was the process like for you when you founded Surrogacy Concierge? How did you get the idea of starting your own company that would help people through their surrogacy?

It was so confusing for me when I went through it. I’m a lawyer, and still, there were so many contracts going on. You have a contract with the doctor, a contract with the surrogate, and a contract with the surrogacy agency. It was difficult for me to understand this process. I can only imagine for someone who doesn’t have any legal experience. This would be very confusing.

We’re coming up with our third company, Baby Connect, to help couples that want to go through the assisted reproductive technology journey would become easier and a more streamlined process. It’s launching this fall. We’re super excited about that. And this isn’t just helping couples but also a lot of women who are going through this on their own. And it definitely would help a large population of the LGBTQIA+ community who would want to start a family.

Do you see the surrogacy industry changing?

I think it has become more popular because when I did it, it was very rare. Especially for someone young and healthy like me. People just assume that you are gonna get married later on or when you’re older you just marry somebody. It’s not necessarily a person that fits you.

You just thought, ‘I gotta get married because my biological clock is ticking.” The idea is that you can freeze your time or freeze your biological clock. It never occurred to us even though it was medically available. It also wasn’t recommended by doctors, especially if you came across as a healthy woman.

When I did that, I didn’t know I had this grapefruit-sized tumor. And when the doctors said, ‘Hey, MSNBC is going to interview us, Wall Street Journal will interview us, can you give a good testimony. And we would give you a discount on your phase.’ I agreed to the interview.

Not knowing what social media was at that time, no one thought what this was going to lead to. I was being very honest when they interviewed me. I didn’t expect it to get over 3000 comments online at the Wall Street Journal. And during that time, the internet was nothing like how it is now. Fifteen years ago, there was no TikTok or Instagram. Social media wasn’t widely used, so getting over 3000 comments was a big deal.

You would think people were open to the idea, but many of the responses were negative. And it was mostly from women. I think it was because women were scared, we were raised to believe that our purpose, as women, rely on procreation. We were raised to be mothers, to give birth—especially for people raised in small countrysides. We were told that’s what we were supposed to do.

So people might think that surrogacy or assisted reproductive technology is taking away from women. And that’s not true. I found great achievement for myself by doing this because I help a lot of women feel empowered.

Now you can freeze your eggs. You can continue to focus on your career. And not take the backseat. The time is ours. You don’t have to marry somebody just because of your biological clock. If we have medical advancements where it’s possible to freeze your egg and freeze your biological clock, you put women on a more equal footing in their careers.

I was a visiting professor at UCLA I taught women ‘When you have to make a choice that is very limited or you have no choice at all, the decision you make is never the best. And having choices is priceless.’

Freezing your eggs is one of those choices. And I promote surrogacy. I promote egg freezing because I want to give women the opportunity to focus on what they want to and not to be burdened by their biological clock. Women nowadays have changed because more celebrities and people in the public eye are freezing their eggs. If there’s something I can share about my journey, it would be to encourage women to make their own choices.

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All
Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

What makes running Surrogacy Concierge challenging for you?

I think the hardest part about this job is the emotions that you go through with the intended parents because when things don’t come out successfully, which often happens in many pregnancies, it’s not anybody’s fault. It happens. People don’t talk about it when they go through a miscarriage. It’s just when people are excited to have a family. And when that plan doesn’t go as planned or it becomes successful, so you have to sit with them and encourage them not to give up.

You’re very active in non-profit organizations. What made you decide to start a non-profit?

There are so many things I would love to do when I want to help out. And then I realized (and this is very recent) that you can’t help anybody if you don’t help yourself. I was spreading myself thin because I wanted to help everyone’s cause. Every cause deserves help. The next question is, which group can I join to make my tiny little effort stronger by joining a group. So I have to sit alone and see which group aligns with me. If I can only do this, I wanted to make sure I give a hundred percent to it.
What aligned with me is the children’s cause. Not that many non-profit children’s causes invited me to be on their board. I was with the Chinese American Museum. I was part of the Asian Youth Center. I was just on so many boards, so with all these non-profit organizations, I felt like I wanted to do something I truly aligned with. I started my organization, Raised By A Village because I believe it takes a village to raise a child. My parents were separated and they were living in different places, so I was raised by my grandparents, my aunt had to help, and even my neighbor.

I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s about community. We all need to take care of each other. Like I said, my power is so limited, but if I can join a group of people I think that we can make more difference.

I invited all my good friends from different fields and expertise. We all wanted to do something for the children through our personal experiences.

Aside from your companies and non-profit organization, you also have a podcast, Evie Unbounded, what made you start your podcast?

I wanted to start a podcast because I often felt alone in my advocacy for children and women’s empowerment. I sometimes don’t know if other women share my thoughts on being an entrepreneur, juggling so many things at once. I wonder if other women have the same questions. Somebody else must share the same experience with me and how would they go through it, or how can we add to that? So I wanted to start a podcast where I interview all these women. Most of them are my good friends and we’re just having a conversation to see if anybody else is in the same situation as us, and what they can take away from what we went through or how we learned from it.

I would do something like that and that made me realize that we are all just the same. It doesn’t matter where you are or if you are just starting your career. When you’re in the middle of your career or you’re done with your career and you try to think what’s your next chapter. We all can learn from each other.

It was nice to have other women that went through the same thing as you share their experiences or advice.

We all have our insecurities and it was nice to hear it from somebody else. And it’s like, that person has the same fears and she overcame them. I just thought that was great and I have great girlfriends and I’m so grateful and lucky for their wisdom. Why not share that knowledge with other women that need it too?

For example, I got my wisdom of freezing my eggs with my girlfriend. I mean, if I didn’t have a girlfriend to share that wisdom with me, I wouldn’t be a mom. I wouldn’t have a surrogate concierge career. I wouldn’t have this amazing company that I’m building right now. Helping more women and the LGBTQIA+ community to create love.

Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All
Evie Jeang Knows Women Can Have It All

Is there a life lesson from an Evie Unbounded interview that you resonate with?

I learned that we all go through highs and lows. We all have challenges, and one way or another, we all overcome them. All these powerful women don’t just lay down when something bad happens to them. You would think that they don’t have problems or challenges because their life is so perfect. You can overcome anything and once you can overcome, you move on.

So when I go through a hard time in my life, I have to remind myself that this too shall pass. That’s my favorite phrase. You see that all the time, but for me to feel and understand it is from interviewing these amazing women.

Why did you title it Evie Unbounded?

I feel like being an Asian American woman or as a woman in general, I think society has certain ideas of how you’re supposed to act and behave. Especially growing up in Asia, the expectation is that I have to marry somebody who can take care of me. I am supposed to be with somebody who’s strong enough and who can financially support me. I called it Evie Unbounded because I believe that these expectations and limitations don’t help women. It’s like putting a chain around women because that limits the beliefs in our heads. When you let that go, that chain over you or how you’re supposed to be, you have the freedom to create and do so much more.

I was raised by the older generation, my grandparents have this very old traditional view and expectations. When I came to the United States and experienced the American dream, I saw other women talk about women’s equality and more, it unbounded me of my old beliefs and accepted that I’m free.

What kind of society do you want to leave behind—for your child and other generations?

I want a female leader to live life fearlessly. One of my great girlfriends Jane Egerton-Idehen wrote a book called Be Fearless and I also interviewed her. She studied as an engineer because she overheard her mom and her mom’s girlfriend say the hardest thing to do was be an engineer. And she said that’s what I want to be. So she had the best way of explaining what being fearless means. She said, ‘It’s okay to have fear. Being fearless is overcoming that fear. That’s what I want to overcome, my fear.

How did all of these experiences shape your point of view on leadership?

I think it goes through different stages. In the beginning, it’s helping. I wanted to be there. I wanted to mentor them. I thought leading my team meant giving them what they want and helping them. And then I realized that to truly help someone you have to set them free and let them be independent. Now, my mentorship style is that I watch my team but I’m there to give them all the support they need. I want them to do it on their own and learn from their own experience. I want them to feel I wouldn’t be critical of them when mistakes happen. I would be there and show them how they can do better next time.