Last Friday, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization effectively overturned 50 years of precedent established by Roe v. Wade. In turn, it delivered a devastating blow to reproductive justice, gender equity, and a person’s right to bodily autonomy.
Though the decision wasn’t entirely unexpected (as a result of the leaked draft opinion in early May), for many, this new reality immediately felt jarring and, in some cases, life-threatening.
As with most things in our perpetually polarized climate, public response was swift, leaving some reeling and others rejoicing.
In the days since the ruling, at least 17 states have enacted abortion bans, leaving millions without access (Source: NYT) to the essential care they need. In response, many companies have released responses, and countless people have come forward to share stories about what reproductive justice means to them—and how terrifying it is to imagine a future without it.
For organizations, it’s moments like this that illuminate what is true about your culture.
One employee at a large organization quipped, “I can’t even ask my boss for a raise. You think I’m going to go talk to HR about an abortion?”
A hasty response or well–worded statement – albeit well-intended – won’t create a culture of trust. However, in a time when organizations are being asked to “show up,” here are 4 Meaningful Actions Companies Can Take to Support Employees After the Overturning of Roe v. Wade.
There are people in your organization who are hurting and fearful. There’s no platitude or motivational speech to negate the reality that women, trans-men, genderqueer, and non-binary employees are facing the life-altering and life-threatening reality that they no longer have the federal right to abortion care.
Expanding health care travel benefits to include abortion is now the floor, not the ceiling. Leaders must let their people know they’re with them and take the necessary steps to ensure all employees get access to the healthcare they need. While the public statements have some merit, only making a statement misses the mark.
To move forward in this moment, employees who are feeling devastated by these developments want to feel acknowledged during this challenging moment in American history. Employees who are making reproductive decisions should have no doubt that they’ll be met with full support.
Empathy is an action that requires taking time to listen and understand where your employees are coming from so that you can offer the support they need. Below are a series of questions to consider as you continue to cultivate the psychological safety necessary to self-advocate for this human right.
Questions to Consider…
Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives.” Her sentiment remains quite salient. As is true with most systemic challenges, the elimination of access to abortion care disproportionally impacts people from historically marginalized communities – including Black and brown folks, Trans folks, people with disabilities, as well as people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
For Black women in particular, this is an especially violent decision considering that they are at least three times more likely than their white counterparts to die during childbirth. The compounding inequities are another chapter in a centuries-long struggle for voting rights, equal pay, access to education, access to homeownership, and much more. If your organization isn’t thinking about this issue through an intersectional lens, your perspective is incomplete.
Considering the intersectional impact of this ruling means that you will likely need to reexamine your company’s “north star” as it relates to your DEI efforts. Simply offering siloed responses in reaction to the ever-changing news-cycle is a disservice to the multi-issue lives of your employees.
Questions to Consider…
This responsibility should permeate all components of an organization, and it’s especially imperative that those in power are engaging too.
In the same way that simply posting a black square, making a statement, or donating money to a cause doesn’t erase centuries of systemic racism or perpetual inequities within an organization, offering to pay travel expenses or post bail for employees doesn’t erase decades of misogyny, toxic masculinity, and gender based inequity within an organization.
It doesn’t erase the gender pay gap. It doesn’t change the fact that (white) men disproportionately hold positions of power. In fact, it’s actually emblematic of the very problem we’re facing now.
Authors note: many of the organizations who are offering relocation benefits are largely comprised of white, upper-middle class folks (JPMorgan Chase, Netflix, Alphabet; Source: CNBC)… Are you seeing the trend of compounding inequities and lack of access? Who is often included and who is often left out?
Instead of looking for a quick fix or the easiest step that checks the box, examine the ways in which your organization participates consciously or subconsciously in the perpetuation of harmful, patriarchal norms that push others to the margins and reinforce white supremacy culture.
Once again, the best first action is to listen. If your organization has not built a strong foundation of trust, employees may need a third-party to facilitate conversations and provide the psychological safety needed for candid disclosure.
Questions to Consider…
In the same way that 2020’s summer of awakening didn’t erase 400 hundred years of systemic racism, one internal email (offering new benefits for employees) cannot be where advocacy begins or ends.
Your repetition becomes your reputation, which makes consistency even more critical! Employees (and bots!) are checking receipts. If your organization’s historical investments and endorsements do not align with the present actions you’re taking to address abortion access, your employees will likely recognize this dissonance and want a greater sense of accountability.
Establishing trust is a journey. No organization will get it completely right, which is why it is crucial to continue learning, creating opportunities for feedback, and advocating for those most impacted by these decisions.
Questions to Consider:
Showing up for your employees in a polarized climate takes courage! When you’re ready to start having these courageous conversations, we’re here to help.
We are passionate about continuing the fight for our collective liberation, because, as Fannie Lou Hamer reminds us, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
About the Courage Collective
The Courage Collective is a consultancy that takes a strategic, holistic, and human-centered approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Our approach prioritizes courage, empathy and intentional action to create meaningful and lasting impact across the entire employee journey. More information on The Courage Collective’s approach and services is available at thecouragecollective.co.