Women in the Workplace
Implications of Overturning Roe V Wade
June 27, 2022
While I typically do no write about “political” issues on this blog, like many women (not all – I acknowledge that fact), the recent SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe Vs. Wade, has left me reeling. I have had many conversations, written and read countless social media posts, and listened to both pro-choice and pro-life interviews. While the overturning of the 50-year-old decision may have originated in the political realm, the consequences are so far beyond the political. Of course, this decision has a major impact on women’s health, but it also has a huge implication for women in the workplace. At stake are the ability to choose and build a career, get promoted, be viewed and valued as a leader, etc. In addition, a woman’s right to privacy is also being eroded.
Last week, women had the option to delay having children or choose not to have children to focus on their careers. We could decide how and where to focus our efforts, our talents, and our personal resources. Over the past fifty years, women made strides toward becoming more equal in the workplace as more and more women opted for fewer children, delay the birth of children, or opted for no children. As a result, we have seen more women occupying the C-Suite. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1995 there were 0% women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, while in 2020 that number – though arguably still way too low, reached 7.4%. Overturning Roe will force us, as women, to take 10 steps back.
No, women’s roles in the workplace will not change today or tomorrow, but we will start to see, especially in those states where access to an abortion has been erased, women being forced to leave the workplace or being turned down for promotions because they have familial responsibilities. They may “have to leave” because they can’t afford day care for three children or they’re too tired juggling the three children and all that comes with that to put in the extra hours to take on a special project. Young women may find they can’t launch their careers because those first couple of years are crucial. And others won’t even have the opportunity because they drop out of college to raise a child they were not prepared to bring into the world because it is impossible to raise a baby, go to college, and pay for college.
I applaud the companies such as Netflix, Apple, Meta, Yelp, Uber, Comcast-NBC Universal, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Microsoft, Salesforce, Bumble, and the list continues to grow for their commitment to support their women employees by providing access to abortions, even if it means getting on a plane and flying across the country. However, it should not be necessary for an employee to have to disclose personal medical information to their boss and company for any kind of medical care. And what happens to that information? How will it be stored, maintained, or used later on? This becomes a concerning invasion of privacy. Currently, if a man needs prostrate surgery, he need only tell his employer he needs to take a week off for a medical procedure. And sure, a woman may not need to state she is going to have an abortion, but simply asking for the funds to fly to a certain state for a “medical procedure” is basically saying, “Hey, I need an abortion.”
Access to abortion is a big enough issue on its own, but the other implications, specifically equality and privacy in the workplace will have, like concentric circles in the water, far reaching consequences that will undermine the progress women have made and serve to further shore up that glass ceiling.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Dean, Graduate College
Assistant Clinical Professor, Goodwin College