Many American companies that promote their workplaces as supporting traditionally marginalized groups have created diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs for their employees. However, making campaign donations to anti-abortion politicians who threaten the reproductive health of vulnerable populations, such as women of color, contradicts their purported support for these groups. Companies must address this disparity if, in fact, business leaders are serious about protecting the reproductive health of women of color.
Following the disappearance of the Supreme Court’s decision protecting women’s right to abortion, “trigger bans”– legislation to ban abortions – has gone into effect in 13 states in the United States. Added to other states prohibiting abortion, this represents a total of 26 States who have banned or restricted abortion. Many American companies have acted to support their employees’ right to choose by giving them access to funds to travel to states that allow abortion. This action is consistent with these companies’ overall support of women through their DEI policies and programs that support the career advancement of women, including women of color.
However, substantial financial donations to politicians sponsoring trigger bans have come from some of the same companies that offer comprehensive DEI programs for women as well as funding for travel to pro-choice states. Thelargest financial contributor of this type to those politicians is AT&T, which donated $1.2 million to the trigger ban politicians according to Business Insider and FollowTheMoney.org. Yet, following an abortion ban in Texas, AT&T announced a policy which funds travel for “medical services that employees cannot access within 100 miles of their place of residence.”
Other companies that have contributed to anti-abortion politicians, and which also have both comprehensive DEI programs and the provision of travel funds to obtain abortions, include the hHealth care company Johnson & Johnson. Despite their public statements, big tech companies Google, Facebook (Meta) and Amazon have sponsored the fight to overturn abortion rights in more than one way.
The hypocritical actions of these companies are not entirely surprising, Lucian Bebchuk and Roberto Tallarita found that companies often make public promises and commitments while maintaining corporate governance principles that put the company’s shareholders first. In this case, it is possible that the support of anti-abortion politicians will be important for these companies to capture regulators.
Business leaders who support anti-abortion legislation disadvantage vulnerable groups they have publicly said they support and defend, including, among the most vulnerable, African American women, Hispanic women, and Asian women.
Hispanic women often face language barriers when seeking healthcare options and, for some, an increased fear of deportation when seeking an abortion. A 2021 studyshows that abortion rates vary widely among Asian women, but rates are lower for those who were born overseas. Researcher Amanda Stevenson believes that a total ban on abortion would create a 33% increasein the number of pregnancy-related deaths among black women who are forced to give birth, compared to an estimated 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths among women overall.
Abortion bans and related health problems affect millions of women in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 19 million women of color in the United States labor force as of September 2022. Among employed women of childbearing age in the United States (16 to 44), there there are approximately 16.7 million women of color. . In the twenty-six states that currently enforce abortion bans and restrictions, there are approximately 8.3 million employed women of color. All of them could potentially be affected by abortion bans – about 11% of the working population in those states.
If women of color are forced out of the workforce due to the medical issues that accompany abortion bans — including deaths — that doesn’t bode well for the American workforce. According to researchers fromBrookings Institution, the Covid pandemic has already hurt the labor market participation of black employees. However, a ray of hope exists given the increase in the number of black women entrepreneurs . Data indicates that black women are the fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs in the United States and are responsible for the increase in the number of black-owned businesses, many of which are small businesses. It has been shown that small businesses, in turn, generate 44% of US economic activity.
In the United States, companies frequently gain reputational capital when they can demonstrate recognition of previously overlooked skills and talents among historically disadvantaged groups. There are business benefits to having a workforce and decision makers who represent a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Research has shown that various groups/organizations are more innovativein their decision-making; perform better financially; less compliance ; and instil a sense of belonging in employees . Research indicates that employees are likely to put in above-average effort when they perceive that they and their communities are treated well. Therefore, companies that support abortion access for their employees and surrounding communities stand to benefit from higher productivity, better talent recruitment, and higher employee retention rates, all of which affect also profitability. The potential loss of working-age women of color is a labor market issue that companies would not be wise to ignore.
While inequalities at the societal level have rarely been addressed by organization and management theorists, a growing numberof these researchers examine how companies are designed or evolve to benefit certain groups over others, and what steps can be taken to address these inequalities. In addition, recent searchindicates an increase in political polarization and a rightward leaning of leaders. This ongoing work suggests that reducing political diversity among corporate executives and the subsequent decisions made by those leadership teams may not even be on the agenda. financial interest of the shareholders of the company.
Companies that claim to champion DEI within their ranks must lead by example and act as a countervailing force to the SCOTUS ruling on abortion that puts the lives of many women at risk. With sufficient attention to these issues, including from researchers and activists, companies have the opportunity to begin to take meaningful action to reduce the institutionalized inequality to which they have contributed for years and to preserve the well- being and the health of their wives. employees of color. This investment in employee well-being will contribute to the well-being of the workforce and protect the reputational capital that these organizations risk losing.
The author was previously employed as a consultant with a non-profit organization and in that position consulted with various companies, including AT&T, mentioned in this article.
Learn more about our disclosure policy here.