For Amanda Skinner ’08, the choice to have an abortion at the age of 39 allowed her to have the career and life she wanted. “I was pregnant. I did not want to be. I was married then to the love of my life, whom I’m still married to. We did not want to be parents,” she explained. Now, in the months following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision, Skinner, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, is among the many leaders who are 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 alums Lisa Allen ’91 and Dr. Natalie Adsuar ’10 for an online conversation about the role businesses play in preserving access to reproductive healthcare. Their discussion was moderated by Meshie Knight ’23 of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, two million fewer women were working 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 leave the workforce. With the overturning of Roe, the disparity in workforce participation is likely to widen.
The gender pay gap will likely follow. Before women left the workforce in droves during the pandemic, White women earned $0.73 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts; Black women made $0.58 and Hispanic women $0.40, according to a 2020 study cited by Knight.
“When we look at economic outcomes and who is most harmed by abortion bans, it is communities of color, it is Black [and Hispanic] women, it is people who already struggle to have comprehensive healthcare,” said Skinner.
“Not having the opportunity to space or time your decisions around reproductive health has ramifications that go well into the future, and in some cases determines whether families are brought out of generational poverty.”
Knight added, “The economic impact of not having the opportunity to space or time your decisions around reproductive health does largely have ramifications and impacts that go well into the future, and in some cases determines whether or not families are brought out of generational poverty.”
Allen, who led human resources and talent management for the American Hospital Association for more than 15 years, urged listeners who hold leadership roles to advocate for colleagues and employees within their organizations who do not have the advantages conferred by multi-generational wealth. These employees must often rely on the benefits and support that employers provide as a safety net, particularly when it comes to accessing the resources they need to be able to keep working. “If you’re asking someone to bring their whole self to their work, then you need to be prepared to interact with them in a way and support them in a way that you make it possible for them—and the next generation—to be successful,” she said.
In industries with tight labor markets, suggested Adsuar, who also earned an MD and is a practicing obstetrician gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, “recruitment and retention is going to circle a little bit more around what women need and what keeps women in the workforce.” Therefore, when it comes to access to reproductive healthcare, “leaders have to care.”
All four panelists emphasized that how clearly leaders signal that they care about the economic and social impacts of the Dobbs decision is critical. “In this age of political mistrust, Americans still have faith in their employers. To not say anything is actually a choice,” Adsuar said.
“If you’re an organization that’s going to be sensitive, connected, and active in attracting and retaining talent, you have to be clear about what you care about,” added Brooks. “If leadership is about being able to help us move from now into the future, broadly speaking, then this is the moment that matters.”