For a moment last summer, after the Supreme Court ended a federally guaranteed right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade, corporate America seemingly leapt to fill the gap.
Hundreds of companies — including household names like Apple, Amazon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Match Group, Uber, Tesla and Zillow — pledged they would pay for workers to access abortion care if their states denied it in annoucements that drewing fierce criticism from conservatives.
How did many of these same workers feel about that? Research released Tuesday indicates they were just as polarized as politicians.
Companies that publicly announced an abortion benefit saw a rise in interest from potential applicants, but they also made some existing male workers unhappy, as evidenced by poor ratings of their management.
“The polarization that we currently see, particularly on this topic, is clearly seeping into our jobs,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Indeed Hiring Lab and one of the study’s authors. “You don’t think of yourself as clocking in and out of work anymore; you want to bring your whole self to work,” she added.
The study—conducted by Indeed, the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland, and IZA Institute of Labor Economics—examined 317 companies, 2.5 million postings with wage information, and 6.5 million company reviews, comparing data before and after the Dobbs ruling on June 24 of last year.
Companies that declared their support for reproductive rights saw an 8% increase in clicks on their job postings compared with companies that said nothing, the research found. That’s similar to the increase generated by bumping up advertised pay by 12%, according to Indeed.
The increase was especially pronounced for job postings in female-dominated industries in states that restricted abortion, as well as for jobs located in Democratic-leaning states. Perhaps aware of public reactions, companies became less likely to announce support for abortion access the more workers they had in abortion-restricting states.
“Companies use this to message out into the world something about their workplace, their ideology, their culture and the values they hold,” Gudell said.
Male workers rewarded for their bad attitudes
But that message also generated a backlash: poor reviews from a small group of male workers. Companies that had announced support for abortion care saw an 8% drop in reviews of senior management, compared with companies that stayed silent. The effect was concentrated in male-dominated jobs, such as software engineers, and in high-paying fields.
Companies sought to compensate for this by actually raising pay an average of 4% where management ratings had declined, with firms that saw the biggest attitude problems raising pay the most, Indeed found.
Why the poor rating from male workers? Indeed cites a list of possible reasons, including “cultural beliefs, political views or preferences for businesses not to take a political stance.”
There’s also the likelihood that male employees are less likely than female ones to directly use a reproductive health care benefit, and may feel resentful that others might be getting a generous benefit they can’t use. (The average worth of an abortion-care benefit was pegged at $4,500, based on Indeed’s analysis of corporate announcements.)
Research has demonstrated that abortion access, while painted as a cultural issue, is a huge boost for women’s economic participation. Being able to end an unwanted pregnancy raises women’s pay and makes them more likely to complete college, while reducing the number of children who live in poverty. By comparison, women who seek and are denied abortion are more likely to fall into debt and file for bankruptcy.
For Gudell, the research is an indication that corporate pledges can’t make up for a lack of public policy.
“These benefits that companies offer should not be a substitute for actually having either state or federally mandated access to healthcare,” she said, noting that the higher-paid jobs that offered these benefits employed the people least likely to need financial help when seeking abortion care. “We can already see the issues this will cause.”