Women now make up more than half of the United States workforce, increasingly represented in roles from the frontline to the C-suite. In a highly competitive talent marketplace, companies have developed strategies to better attract and retain women; including making changes to benefits policies that appeal to a majority-women workforce.
What is notably missing, however, is women’s health care, especially access to contraception and abortion. These services are used by nearly all women —99 percent of women have used contraception and 25 percent of women have had an abortion by age 45. There is a deep evidence base linking access to contraception and abortion to women’s health and wellbeing, educational achievement, workforce participation, and professional advancement. Women cite their ability to control if and when they start a family as a critical factor driving their ability to participate and advance in the workforce. As a result, access to contraception and abortion also has significant implications for employers. Yet, U.S. companies have largely failed to recognize its importance.
In partnership with Rhia Ventures, a social investment venture, FSG examined why and how companies should engage on this issue in the new report Hidden Value: The Business Case for Reproductive Health.
Through interviews with human resource representatives at nearly 40 companies, we found that many companies are unaware of the coverage they provide employees for reproductive health services and often unwittingly or intentionally limit health plan coverage for contraception and abortion. Many companies have also ignored the increasingly volatile political and legal climate surrounding reproductive health access, even though 29 states have significant restrictive policies in place.
In the report, we identify five primary business reasons why reproductive health should be a priority for U.S. companies:
- Widening the pipeline and attracting talent: Access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, is a major factor supporting women’s participation in the workforce. Women in states with better access to contraception have higher rates of labor force participation and more frequently pursue full-time employment. Women also consider the policy environment in career decisions—a majority of college-educated women (56%) say they would not apply to a job in a state that has recently banned abortion. By supporting comprehensive reproductive health access, companies can improve their own competitiveness for talent, especially among younger workers.
- Supporting and retaining existing talent: To enter and advance in the workforce, women must have agency to choose if and when they want to have children. 86% of women state that controlling if and when to have children has been important to their careers. Women who cannot access abortion when needed are three times more likely to be unemployed, and four times more likely to have a household income below the federal poverty level. Contraception and abortion access are also tied to women’s ability to invest in education and training, ultimately affecting opportunities for advancement. As a result, a lack of access to reproductive health care may heighten attrition and turnover costs.
- Providing high-impact benefits with low-cost investments: Reproductive health benefits, particularly contraception and abortion, are inexpensive relative to companies’ overall health care costs. None of the 39 companies interviewed for this report mentioned cost as a limiting factor for coverage of reproductive health care. Conversely, costs for contraception and abortion can represent significant expenses for women and their partners who lack adequate insurance coverage.
- Delivering on diversity and inclusion: 80% of the world’s largest public companies have made a public commitment to gender diversity. To achieve these commitments, companies must consider how their benefits, including coverage for reproductive health, support an equitable workplace.
- Preparing for greater scrutiny: Stakeholders are increasingly calling on corporations to take stands on social issues—and reproductive health is no exception. While many companies may feel removed from the reproductive health conversation today, expectations are changing and companies should be prepared for greater scrutiny in the future.
Hidden Value: The Business Case for Reproductive Health highlights examples of companies prioritizing reproductive health and provides practical guidance for companies and investors to take action.