Earlier this month, we marked Equal Pay Day. In press releases and on social media, companies across America committed themselves to closing the gender pay gap and touted the importance of women’s empowerment and equity. In the era of the Women’s March, the unprecedented surge of women’s participation at the polls in 2018, and the record numbers of women that those women elected in the midterms, women’s advancement should be top of mind for companies right now.
Standing up for women’s rights is not only ethical. It’s also good business, with consumers eager to spend their dollars with companies that align with their values. Still, a critical aspect of this conversation continues to be overlooked: reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom means that no woman can be fully empowered in the workplace if she cannot control her own body and decide her own destiny. This includes the ability to access birth control and abortion care, to go to work and not face discrimination while pregnant, and to have paid family leave to care for a new child.
To millions of working Americans, this isn’t some abstract fight about social issues. These are bread-and-butter issues that affect their ability to continue their education, rise up in their career, and plan for their future. And it couldn’t be any clearer that the American people expect businesses to take reproductive freedom seriously, too. A new report from the Harris Poll on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America suggests that staying silent on reproductive freedom may be a missed opportunity for companies. The poll, which surveyed 1,271 employed adults, indicates that companies should be just as vocal about and supportive of reproductive freedom as they are when it comes to the many other issues they stand up for, including equal pay, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights.
When women have the autonomy to choose if, when, and how to have children, they can build healthier families who are more resilient in times of economic downturn, which helps our communities grow stronger and companies prosper. The bottom line is supporting reproductive freedom is good for business. When women are provided essential benefits, productivity goes up and employee retention and loyalty increase. Over 70 percent of those polled acknowledge that reproductive freedom is tied to women’s overall empowerment and equality.
In the last two years, 29 states have passed over 100 laws denying women access to basic reproductive healthcare, including abortion care. Federal efforts to limit access to birth control, such as the Trump administration’s “domestic gag rule” that dismantles Title X, the nation’s birth control and reproductive health program, threaten the reproductive healthcare of millions of women. And if we can’t assume women’s rights are protected at the federal level, it’s up to all of us to ensure reproductive freedom is safe in our communities. In short, the leadership of the corporate community right now is absolutely critical.
We saw the power of the corporate community when more than 50 business leaders in Georgia spoke up as the state legislature considered, and then passed, a law that bans abortion at six weeks—before most women even know they are pregnant. The people who signed were leading with values. They were standing up for women and in line with the majority of Americans who want to keep access to abortion care. According to the survey, over 67 percent of respondents feel it is important for their employer to take a stand on reproductive freedom, including abortion. And 60 percent of employees reported that they would be more loyal to a company that offers coverage for prenatal care, family planning, and abortion care.