Working women across the U.S. are still fighting for equal compensation in the workforce. Women earn just 84 cents for every dollar men make and the U.S. ranks 38th in the world on gender equality metrics. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated gender inequality. Numbers show that 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce in September 2020– four times the amount as men did. Women-owned small businesses were hit especially hard as they closed at higher rates than businesses owned by men. Women’s financial security, for themselves and their families, immediately became more vulnerable after the Supreme Court decided this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.
After the Court’s decision, fourteen states recently enacted abortion bans, and more states are expected to follow suit. If America maintains its backwards momentum on reproductive rights, women in the workforce will not be able to find, or sustain, financial stability for themselves or their families. The combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Court’s decision will only make the $2.4 trillion gender gap worse.
Access to reproductive rights is not a partisan issue. A Business Forward report shows that women-friendly policies are supported by women on both sides of the aisle. Without implementing reproductive rights in the workplace, the U.S. will continue to see a fall in female labor force participation rates across all sectors and increases in unsafe methods of contraception and abortion. Thankfully, small business leaders know that supporting women in their places of work could boost state economies by $105 billion more per year.
In response to the Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, women business leaders are sharing the “business case,” which answers questions on reproductive rights with arguments related to jobs, taxes, and economic opportunities. Business leaders use data-driven and fact-oriented arguments to depoliticize the topic. They focus on the economic costs of inaction in Congress after the Court’s decision. Business leaders are effective advocates because they have clear opinions, keep their arguments short, and speak up for their employees. Here are six critical points we hear from business leaders on reproductive rights:
- Women drive economic growth
By helping women stay in and re-enter the workforce, our annual economic output could be $2.4 trillion larger by 2030. But women cannot realize their potential in the workplace if the government makes it harder for them to plan if and when they want to have children.
- Progress has stalled, and we can’t afford to go backward
After decades of gains, women remain underrepresented in high-paying jobs and underprotected at work. Comprehensive reproductive care means more women (1) participate in the labor force; (2) access upskilling opportunities; and (3) move into better-paying jobs.
- Reproductive care benefits employers and employees alike
State bans don’t stop abortions: people just travel farther distances to get them. This means longer absences from work, more employees forced to give birth, and more who leave their jobs. Government support matters most for small businesses because generous parental leave, health insurance, and recruitment are all easier for big businesses.
- Global competitors are supporting women
While our competitors around the world are making it easier for women to succeed at work, the US is making it harder. Relative to other developed nations around the world, the US ranks poorly on women’s labor force participation rate, gender equity at work, and maternal leave policies.
- No one wants to invest in divided communities
Restrictive abortion laws divide our communities. States compete with one another for new investment and jobs, and companies look for a talented workforce, sound infrastructure, and a strong community. State-level abortion restrictions will turn off investors looking for a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive economy to enter.
- High cost of reproductive health restrictions
Each year, state-level abortion restrictions cost Americans $105 billion by reducing labor force participation, earnings, and increasing turnover and time off. Without existing restrictions, more than 500,000 women would resume working and collectively earn $3 billion per year, a 9% increase in total private sector earnings.
To learn how business leaders can talk to a reporter or elected official about reproductive healthcare, check out Business Forward’s training manual here.
“How to Talk to a Reporter of Elected Official.” Business Forward. 2022.
“Even The Most Successful Women Pay A Big Price.” NPR. 2020.
“Women-Owned Businesses Suffered During the Pandemic. Here’s Why.” Center for Global Development. 2022.
“Roe v. Wade Overturned: Our Latest Resources.” Guttmacher Institute. 2022.
“Tracking the States Where Abortion is Now Banned.” NYT. 2022.
“Global reproductive and women’s rights groups react to overturn of Roe v. Wade.” NPR. 2022.
“State Abortion Bans Will Harm Women and Families’ Economic Security Across the US.” Center for American Progress. 2022.