For Amanda Skinner ’08, choosing to have an abortion at age 39 allowed her to have the career and life she wanted. “I was pregnant. I didn’t want to be. I was then married to the love of my life, to whom I am still married today. We didn’t want to be parents,” she explained. Now, in the months since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, Skinner, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, is among many leaders grappling with the consequences of that decision, including the economic impact of abortion restrictions and the long-term implications for women’s financial security.
Skinner recently joined Heidi Brooks, senior lecturer in organizational behavior at Yale SOM, and fellow alumni Lisa Allen ’91 and Dr. Natalie Adswar ’10 for an online conversation about the role of business in preserving access to reproductive health. Their discussion was moderated by Meshi Knight ’23 of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
According to the Institute for Policy Research on Women, two million fewer women worked in June 2022 than in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. And women without access to abortion care are three times more likely to drop out of the workforce. With Roe overturned, inequality in labor force participation is likely to widen.
The gender pay gap is likely to follow. Before women left the workforce en masse during the pandemic, white women earned $0.73 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts; According to a 2020 study cited by Knight, black women made $0.58 and Hispanic women made $0.40.
“When we look at the economic outcomes and who is most harmed by abortion bans, it’s communities of color, black [and Hispanic] women, people are already struggling to have comprehensive health care,” Skinner said.
“Not being able to allocate or time your decisions about reproductive health has consequences that go far into the future and, in some cases, determine whether families are lifted out of generational poverty.”
Knight added: “The economic impact of not being able to allocate or time your decisions about reproductive health largely has ramifications and impacts that continue into the future and in some cases determine whether families are lifted out of generational poverty or not. ”
Allen, who has led human resources and talent management for the American Hospital Association for more than 15 years, urged listeners in leadership positions to stand up for colleagues and employees in their organizations who lack the advantages of multigenerational wealth. These employees often have to rely on the benefits and support employers provide as a safety net, especially when it comes to accessing the resources they need to keep working. “If you’re asking someone to put their whole self into their work, then you have to be willing to interact with them in a way and support them in a way that makes it possible for them – and the next generation – to be successful,” she said.
In industries with tight labor markets, suggested Adswar, who also earned his doctorate and is a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, “recruitment and retention will revolve a little more around what women need and what they retain in the workforce.” Therefore, when it comes to access to reproductive health, “leaders must care.”
All four panelists emphasized that how clearly leaders signal that they care about the economic and social impact of the Dobbs decision is critical. “In this age of political mistrust, Americans still trust their employers. Not saying anything is actually a choiceAdswar said.
“If you are an organization that is going to be sensitive, connected and active in attracting and retaining talent, you need to be clear about what you care about,” added Brooks. “If leadership means being able to help us move from now to the future, broadly speaking, then this is the moment that counts.”