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Is your company staying silent on Roe? Here's what you can do about it.

As more Americans want employers to take a stand on abortion rights, equity strategist Tara Jaye Frank shares how companies and their employees can step up to support each other.
Image: Abortion protest
Abortion rights advocates march during the Bans Off Our Bodies rally from the National Mall to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on May 14, 2022.Valerie Plesch for NBC News

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – erasing the constitutional right to an abortion – companies across America have been scrambling to decide if and how to provide abortion care to employees who live in states where the procedure is no longer legal.

While many major companies – like Disney, Amazon and Starbucks – have announced plans to protect these benefits for their workers, other companies have remained silent.

But the end of Roe follows two incredibly challenging years for millions of women who either downshifted or left in the workforce entirely during the pandemic. Even today, there are at least 2 million women still not working – and experts say that number will only grow with the restricted access to reproductive care.

In fact, a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reveals the demise of Roe will have a “detrimental impact” on the recruitment and retention of women in the workforce, especially those trying to reenter.

Image: Tara Jaye Frank
Tara Jaye Frank is an equity strategist and author of the book, "The Waymakers, Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence."Kendra Swalls / Paisley Lane Photography

Know Your Value spoke with diversity and inclusion strategist Tara Jaye Frank, author of the new book, “The Waymakers, Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence.”

She shares ways companies and their employees can navigate the post-Roe era, including how to support women and keep them in the promotion pipeline.

Know Your Value: Let’s start with the steps companies can take to prioritize women’s health and safety. What should be top of mind for leadership?

Frank: It’s important for company leaders to first express empathy — acknowledge that this news is traumatic for many and comes with very personal implications. They should then reiterate their values as relevant, of course.

But the most important thing leaders can do is talk to their people, genuinely listen to what they need. Often, in these situations, leaders jump into action or get on bandwagons, responding in ways that may or may not resonate with their teams. It’s always wise to let inside insight guide solutions.

Abortion access is just one dimension of a larger wellness story that includes patient education, preventative care, access to diverse providers, mental health resources, more robust insurance coverage, childcare support, and more.

Women – especially women of color – were hit harder by the pandemic, are concentrated in lower paying jobs, and often have responsibility for extended family. These pressures converge and can be difficult to manage while trying to build a career. Companies that prioritize “whole person” care that follows women throughout their health journeys will find loyal employees who grow with them over time.

Know Your Value: According to a recent Edelman report, Americans trust business more than the government, non-government organizations and media. As more people look to CEOs to take a stand on social issues, how can leaders maintain trust?

Frank: First, company leadership must determine how their investments, alliances, business strategies and community engagement approach intersects with these issues and assess how well their current social impact aligns with who they want to be moving forward. This assessment is critical to not only the well-being of their employees, but to their own credibility and sustainability.

Next, adjust. If there are areas of misalignment, companies should make conscious decisions about what they will change and be transparent about why. Being clear about operating in integrity is increasingly important to both employees and consumers.

Finally, companies must accept that they can’t make everyone happy. Values-based decisions that take business health into account require courage and discipline. Some will bristle, but staying the course, while being open to learning as you go, is critical. Otherwise, you lose everyone.

Know Your Value: For employees in states where abortion is no longer legal, what can they do if they feel unsafe at work?

Frank: The first order of business is to check in with yourself – identify your most urgent needs. For some, that is time away. For others, it’s to talk about their fears or concerns with trusted friends or colleagues.

Next, raise your voice. Once those most urgent needs are met, it’s important for employees to speak up to their direct manager or a trusted leader about how Roe v. Wade, and similar decisions, impact their ability to thrive. Women make up half the workforce and Generation Z represents our future, employees have more power than they think. But they must speak up.

Know Your Value: How can companies instill psychological safety at this time?

Frank: Clarity and communication about beliefs and values, redefining leadership norms, implementing monitoring systems, driving accountability – these are all systemic ways we expect leaders to cultivate safety.

Whether or not this level of sophistication is present, leaders can make safety personal by building bridges across difference and “collaborating on culture.” This may look like establishing 1:1 or team psychological contracts. It can mean bringing teams together to collectively envision a safer climate, then discussing how they must behave differently toward that vision and committing to exactly that.

But leaders can also cultivate safety by being vulnerable. By not expecting perfection. By respecting others’ humanity. By intervening during moments of acute harm. There are so many opportunities to show up for people every day. And because many workers are still remote, we must use all the tools at our disposal.

Know Your Value: What about cultivating pathways into leadership for women so we don’t turn back the progress gained on executive levels?

Frank: This investment should be rooted in desired outcomes, systematized and monitored with shared accountability. Ideas that truly work, when operationalized, include:

Sponsorship programs with C-Suite engagement. This builds connection, increases visibility, ensures advocacy, and mitigates affinity bias in key talent decisions.

Pipeline development cohort experiences. These brings underrepresented talent into a community, which enhances learning and combats isolation, builds relevant business acumen, curates connections with executives, and enables intentional growth opportunity.

Track representation. It’s essential to set goals, assign accountability and track progress to address barriers with precision.

Equip leaders to lead equitably. Decision-makers need education, not in theory but practice. Exploring where bias is hiding in their systems and leverage their problem-solving agility to respond.

There is no silver bullet. Progress is about placing bets on women and giving them the resources and support, including advocates, they need to be successful. And not accepting excuses as to why “they’re not yet ready.”

Image: The Waymakers book cover
Tara Jaye Frank wrote "The Waymakers, Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence" to help people with power and position pursue diversity and inclusion mindfully and effectively.Amplify Publishing

Know Your Value: What does “Waymaking” look like?

Frank: A waymaker opens doors, removes barriers and ushers those who have been historically denied through to higher levels of contribution. It looks like providing insight – unwritten rules, sacred cows, access to networks, knowledge centers – which result in promotions, projects and better pay.

Waymakers are people with a heart to lead who realize that some have been standing on pedestals while others have been standing in holes, and they believe achieving equitable outcomes is not only their responsibility, but also their privilege. Waymaking is purposeful and active. It is not cheerleading.