Perhaps the most uncomfortable secret lingering under the corporate reaction to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade is that we could have severely diminished the likelihood of ending up in this situation had we closed the gender equity gap decades ago.
Too little, too late. And now we’re left playing defense. Within days of the Roe ruling, more than 100 companies employing millions of Americans expanded abortion-related health benefits.
Patagonia went as far as offering to bail out employees who “peacefully protest for reproductive justice.” As a CEO myself, I also implemented immediate changes to employee benefits following the Court’s announcement (more on those changes later).
However, reacting to inequitable public policy cannot excuse us from taking steps to close the gender equity gap at our companies. Because equity in the workplace begets equity in politics. As we approximate the latter, we can not only tap into gender equity’s $3.1 trillion potential, we can also sublimate toward a more genuine form of democracy.
If we want gender equity in politics, we need gender equity in the workplace
As unpalatable as it sounds, wealth determines who becomes a lawmaker in the United States. Wealth also determines whose voices get heard by these lawmakers. (More than half of all money raised during the 2016 election season traces back to fewer than 400 families.)
Some of us are more equal than the rest of us, and the rest of us have been effectively silenced by inequity. Look no further than the fact that 63% of women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And yet here we are on the shores of Roe’s fallout.
Nominal equality isn’t functional equality. Single women hold only 32 cents of wealth for every dollar single men own. Single Black and Hispanic women hold less than a penny of wealth for every dollar single white men own. Since wealth and power go hand in hand, we need to close the gender wealth gap if we want to ensure women’s voices are represented and heard in the political arena. So how do we close the gender wealth gap? It starts and centers in our workplaces.
The more effective post-Roe response we need from corporate America
The question we need to be asking now is: What are companies doing to guarantee equity for employees of all genders across the entire employee life cycle?
Siphoning off the pay gap is admirable. It’s also table stakes. Only by ensuring equity across the entire employee life cycle, across all intersectional cohorts, will we generate the outcome we’re yearning for. Pipeline found, through its implementations, that men receive promotions at a 21% greater rate than women. For Black women, the gender promotion gap doubles.
Moreover, a third of performance reviews contain bias, leading to women receiving lower performance ratings 4% of the time. These sneaky forms of bias (i.e., “systemic inequity”) hold women back from positions of power and the pay commensurate with such positions. In fact, ask people to give a reason for the vacuity of women in corporate leadership, and the top response you’ll hear is not related to family or motherhood: It’s society’s glass maze of double standards for different genders.
Four additional post-Roe requests for companies
Closing the gender equity gap in our workplaces—via equity of opportunity, potential, pay, promotion, and performance—will take time to transpire. We are, after all, correcting for decades of systemic inequity.
So in addition to embedding equity into the employee life cycle, I recommend companies take these four fast-acting steps. I implemented all four of these steps at my company within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
- Safeguard access to abortion services for employees and their families regardless of geographic location. This is a necessary bandage.
- Make Election Day (primaries and general elections) paid holidays at your company. Our democracy depends on the plurality of the electorate, and the electorate needs access to the ballot box without economic consequences.
- Offer employees at least five fully paid volunteer days per year. Civil institutions are key to a thriving democracy, yet only 26% of employers offer paid volunteer time off.
- Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. Being a woman in the U.S. should not be an act of resistance. We need to enshrine gender equality into our constitution.
Toward a more perfect union
Paying for abortion won’t solve gender inequity. It’s time for us to take a hard look at the inequitable decisions we’ve made over the decades. It’s time for us to audit the $8 billion we spend on implicit bias training every year. It’s time for us to reflect on the 174% increase in corporate commitment to gender equity we’ve witnessed since 2020.
Now is the time to proactively embed gender equity into the workplace so we can move toward a more perfect union and enjoy the $3.1 trillion opportunity waiting for us on the other side of the gender equity gap. This is the great experiment of American democracy.
Katica Roy is the founder and CEO of Pipeline Equity.