The Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. Have you thought about what is at risk for your business? Many companies fear having to choose between being Pro-Life or Pro-Choice when supporting their employees. They struggle with what to do, how to protect their brand, and alienating one side, no matter what. Alignment Strategies’ position is that there is only one correct answer here. CHOICE.
If businesses are about addressing the needs of the majority of their workforce, who are women, then they cannot take the position of NOT supporting CHOICE. Because if they do, they’re not fully recognizing and supporting the spectrum of choices that a woman must address throughout her life cycle. It’s not an either-or, but an and. Businesses must hold up women who choose to have children, raise a family, and rise to the ranks of their career aspirations. They are also responsible for creating a culture that covers a woman who chooses not to have kids or chooses abortion for any reason.
Another factor to recognize is that the largest generation in the U.S. labor force is watching, which currently includes 56 million millennials. According to the 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 75% of millennial women are employed (women of child-bearing age, mind you). Millennials want to know that their employers have their back. Outside of mandates and bans, they desire and even demand employer support. In a recent article, CNBC’s Make It outlet highlights the drastic moves millennials are taking in being selective about the companies they decide to be a part of. They are unwilling to compromise though their employers are. Tomorrow’s leaders have drawn a line in the sand and are not alone.
Women are not willing to go backward. First, let’s understand women’s career progression since Roe vs. Wade. Seven years after the Supreme Court’s decision to support the woman’s right to choose, the average age of marriage among women increased to 22; 30% of American female high school graduates were enrolled in college, and almost 14% had earned four-year degrees. By 1980, the workforce included 40% of working mothers with children under six. Fast-forward to today, and these numbers have only advanced. Women are holding off on marriage until age 27 and comprise the majority of students enrolled in college. Women are exercising CHOICE.
Businesses can’t afford to go backward, either. The impact of women in the workplace has been significant. Women hold 21% of senior leadership positions, and U.S. companies with leading ladies outperform those without. Research has found that Fortune 500 companies with a 30% female board could expect to add more than one percentage point to their net margin compared to organizations with none. Additionally, the World Economic Forum found that closing the gender gap could increase GDP by 35%, which is a win for the economy and, therefore, business.
The benefits aren’t one of capital gains alone. Companies with women in top leadership experience innovation intensity, producing 20% more patents than organizations dominated by men, and employees report being happier and more satisfied at work due to the more supportive culture nurtured by women leaders. The female factor matters. Their presence in the workplace is paying off.
In the aftermath of the Roe vs. Wade reversal, women will have greater career limitations if businesses don’t support CHOICE. In the days, months, and years ahead, organizations must consider how they will defend women in their decision to have children and raise a family or not. If companies want to continue to succeed with women behind the wheel, they must reciprocate by ensuring women get there.
Companies must partner with their female employees along the CHOICE spectrum if they wish to attract, obtain, and retain women. It’s time to start thinking about creative ways and solutions that can still support women. Companies must protect a woman’s right and freedom to make the choices she needs for herself. When businesses do that, they will foster an environment where women feel more innovative, inclusive, understood, and free to make personal life decisions.
Companies unwilling to stand behind all choices women and their male allies must make and instead decide to stick their heads in the sand on the issue will alienate their female employees. These businesses will leave them with one option—quit or not consider joining them at all. In short, companies will lose out on a valuable employee cohort without evidence of tangible support. Frankly, businesses supporting CHOICE are in an enviable, win-win position.
The question then becomes, is your company prepared to embrace all choices?
Salesforce and Patagonia are two examples of businesses successfully doing so. Both offer benefits to support employees who choose to have families and those who choose not.
Salesforce, a customer relationship software company, took the initiative by publicly supporting employee rights as early as last September. When Texas Governor Greg Abbott passed a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff announced that his company would help Texas employees move to abortion-friendly states if they chose to do so. In June, the company reiterated its relocation benefit and extended it to employees in any restrictive state.
Patagonia expressed its empathy in a LinkedIn article, stating, “Caring for employees … means supporting employees’ choices around if or when they have a child. It means giving parents the necessary resources to work and raise children.” The company has offered to cover travel, food, and lodging for employees who need to receive care out of state.
Both employers also offer highly-praised parental benefits, proving that they care about their employees no matter their personal decision. Offering 12 weeks of paid, flexible maternity, paternity, and adoption leave, Salesforce has earned 4.7 stars on Glassdoor for its parental benefits. Patagonia also offers 12 weeks of paid parental bonding leave in addition to child-care support for parents on work trips and on-site child care.
So how do you know what steps are suitable for your organization? There are three actions we advise and consider a must among today’s business leaders. We can’t afford to miss or even skim on these inevitables.
First and foremost, face the issue head-on. It’s not going away. This moment calls for genuine conversations with your employees, particularly women and men of child-bearing age. Here’s what we suggest:
Go directly to your employees, women, and men, and check in. Ask them how they are doing and inquire about any personal effects of the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. This engagement can take on several forms. Consider conducting an employee town hall, launching targeted focus groups, and distributing surveys to gather insights and hear feedback. Use these tools to learn what your employees expect of the company during this time and how they desire the organization to show up.
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions that tackle the “need to know’s.” When you do, you will have a firmer grasp of their expectations of your company’s public-facing response, any requirements of specific actions your company should undertake, and their commitment to stay or leave based on actions or lack thereof.
Frame “The Choice Value Proposition” by convening your departments directly responsible for establishing policies, deploying procedures, and communicating to internal and external stakeholders. This troop would likely include HR, DE&I, Finance, Legal, Operations, and Communications. You might find this more challenging than expected. Solicit an external resource to help your team focus on framing the company’s “Choice Value Proposition.”
Create and establish a C-Suite leadership presence. Your executive team should be a visible supporter and advocate for CHOICE even if you don’t have all the answers. Let your employees, customers, stakeholders, and the general public know this is an issue of utmost importance. Voice your understanding of its vitality and that your team is committed to the CHOICE spectrum. Frankly, your goal is to convey the freedom to choose the life both men and women desire to live.
Unsure you’re ready or able to do so? Please connect with us. Alignment Strategies is here to help. Together, we’ll discuss other substantial strategies you can take to ensure your business is affiliated with CHOICE!