The subject of women’s rights, particularly in the workplace for the purposes of this piece, has been on the forefront lately. No matter what your stance on abortion rights, the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade is sparking discussions about women’s equality across the board, particularly in the workplace. It’s important that we have that discussion through the lens of what leadership can do to make sure women are supported and heard.
To start, how has the overturning of Roe impacted and spurred conversations about women’s rights with respect to their livelihoods? “Roe vs Wade has reignited conversation surrounding women’s health and the precautions
women must take to make sure their health is protected,” says Mayka Rosales-Peterson, senior manager of partner marketing for Intelisys. “Women of color are highly impacted by this decision as most have limited to access to health care, which affects women’s access to contraception and other sexual health services that are important for pregnancy planning.”
Considering the cost associated not just with abortion, but with procedures such as IVF, birth control and other health issues specific to women, many women are paying close attention to their employers’ views on reproductive rights. According to a recent poll conducted by Ellevest, almost half of working women said that they would quit their jobs if their employer’s views on reproductive rights didn’t line up with their own.
“One of the things this decision brings up is how this discussion impacts healthcare practices for women overall,” says Kathryn Rose, founder and CEO of Channelwise. “In many cases, it seems that insurance companies and the employers that choose them don’t support health issues that only impact women. The conversations I’m hearing are centering around birth control, insurance plans not covering well woman exams and medical procedures like IVF (that men don’t have to deal with), and mental health treatment for trauma that comes out of things like rape or even the trauma that can come with having an abortion.”
The poll uncovered that 44% of working women in the United States claimed that they would leave their current position if said views and values didn’t match up. For millennial women, who make up 35% of the total workforce, that number rose to 56%, according to Bloomberg. This is no small number.
More than half of the nearly 2,500 survey participants said the Supreme Court decision doing away with the constitutional right to abortion caused their concerns about finances for reproductive healthcare to spike.
“Immediately after the decision about Roe vs Wade, I made an appointment with my gynecologist to learn about the protective measures that I can be doing to keep my reproductive health in check,” Rosales-Peterson shared. “My gynecologist proceeded to say that she has since received an influx of calls about this same thing. This is not a right versus left issue, but one of women’s rights and what we can and can’t do with our bodies.”
So, what are the implications here? What should businesses take into consideration regarding the state of women’s healthcare, and how it impacts their employees?
Rose goes on to say that mental health overall is a big concern for many, and to promote diversity in organizations, employers need to take into consideration the coverage of things like IVF in their benefit plans.
“I think, especially in tech with the hiring gap so many are experiencing, it would be wise to make sure women are a part of the discussions in supporting their mental health as well as physical health. It’s just good business,” says Rose.
There are also maternity leave policies to consider. This has historically fallen short in the United States, especially when compared to some other countries. And while it may surprise some, many U.S. employers still consider the possibility that a woman will become pregnant in hiring practices. Unfortunately, the reality is that the impact of possible maternity leave can also contribute to the wage gap between men and women.
There are so many impacts of maternity leave that can hinder a woman’s career – ones that have lasting effects, such as lower pay or being passed up for promotions. Women can feel like they have to prove themselves twice as much as men because they have children, and they don’t want a negative bias placed upon them.
“Months after I came out of maternity leave, I was told by a leader at a previous job that I couldn’t travel or take on certain tasks to help move my career forward because I had children at home,” Rosales-Peterson shared. “I was made to feel like having children and being a working mom was something that couldn’t be done.”
What can employers do to make sure women are heard and supported?
“Ways that women can be supported is having more resources in the workplace,” said Rosales-Peterson. “This can include women’s resource groups and policies within HR that help support women, especially with career progression. Childcare should also be affordable to allow women the space and resources to afford it so that they can thrive in their careers and have appropriate support.”
Rose suggests ERGs, more carefully chosen insurance plans, and subsidizing child care.
“Subsidizing childcare would be so helpful,” says Rose. “It cost me more than $2,000 per month for daycare for my son back in 2007. ERGs are a great way to help offer support, and peer groups are a good way to facilitate conversation and move policies forward.”
While the overturning of Roe may have re-energized these conversations, women have been struggling with workplace equity throughout the history of this country. Employers have an opportunity to listen to female employees, step up, and support them in the workplace.