On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, major corporations added abortion travel costs to their employee benefits. New research reveals these policies help recruit new workers but may alienate some current ones—especially men.
Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last summer, 15 states have banned abortion, and more states have instituted partial abortion bans. As a result, many big-name U.S. companies, including Apple
The new research analyzed how those companies that offer travel assistance and related care fared compared to similar companies that do not provide such benefits. After finding both advantages and disadvantages for the companies offering abortion assistance, the researchers conclude that extending reproductive benefits is likely a win for an organization’s bottom line.
The researchers examined data from Indeed, the largest job search site in the U.S., and Glassdoor, which aggregates reviews of employees and worker salary information. The large-scale study analyzed 3 billion clicks on U.S. job postings and 6.5 million company reviews. Completed by researchers at Indeed, the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland and the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, the results were posted on the research network SSRN for discussion.
Post-Dobbs Announcement Led To Improved Recruiting
Examining the clicks on job postings on Indeed, the researchers found an almost 8% increase in interest in job postings by companies after they offered to pay for access to abortion. Not surprisingly, the effect was most pronounced for jobs that tend to be in female-dominated areas.
Research from LeanIn.Org revealed that the majority of those under age 40, regardless of their political affiliation, want to work for a company that supports access to abortion. Many of these employees would consider switching jobs to preserve this access.
Backlash From Male Employees
Despite the increase in recruitment, some employees weren’t so happy that their organization decided to take a stance on abortion. For companies that announced abortion-related benefits, Glassdoor ratings of senior management and company culture took a hit. The drop in ratings for management came predominantly from employees in male-dominated jobs. Although the researchers don’t know the gender of the Glassdoor raters, they assume that the ratings from those in male-dominated positions are primarily men.
The authors acknowledge that a small number of outspoken employees could have influenced their findings. “There could be a vocal minority of workers who are angered by these announcements while the ‘silent majority’ of existing employees do not change their opinions,” they write. Past research about consumer behavior indicates that people are generally more likely to share bad experiences than good ones.
Critics of these abortion travel policies have been vocal about their opposition. Most notably, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville blocked promotions for hundreds of military personnel due to the Department of Defense’s policy that pays for travel expenses associated with an out-of-state abortion. Texas legislators threatened Logan Green, the CEO of Lyft
The negative management reviews analyzed in the study did not state the reason for the worker’s displeasure. It may have been driven by personal views on abortion or a belief that companies shouldn’t take a stance on politicized issues. It’s also possible that male employees were upset with a policy that predominantly benefits women.
Interestingly, companies that received lower ratings after their post-Dobbs announcements were also more likely to give a raise to their employees. The more severe the decline in employee satisfaction, the greater the pay raise. The researchers speculate that companies may be attempting to compensate the employees who are most unhappy about the abortion-related policy. Overall, the companies who announced these benefits increased posted wages on Indeed by 4% more than those organizations that did not alter their policies.
Overall Win For Companies Offering Abortion Benefits
Although these policies lead companies to attract some employees and alienate others, the advantages likely outweigh the disadvantages. Emily Nix, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California and an author of the study, explains, “When it comes to their workforces, probably more firms that are on the margin of making such announcements should do this, with the exception of firms whose workforces are more male and more conservative-leaning.” She explains that the increased search interest is worth 12% in wages, but firms with disgruntled employees only raised wages by 4%, so the companies should come out ahead financially. “Of course, it will take more time to see if the boon to recruiting leads to gains in long-term profitability for these firms,” Nix adds.
There is also evidence that those attracted by these policies may be higher quality employees than those turned off by the benefits. Prior research on job seekers has found that when a firm advertises work as socially-oriented, it attracts more productive employees who produce higher-quality work. Although more investigation needs to be completed in this area, this research suggests that those attracted to the firm because of its abortion-related policies may outperform those who disapprove of the benefits.
Companies With Female CEOs And Female Workforce More Likely To Offer Benefits
Companies that extended benefits post-Dobbs have some commonalities. For example, organizations led by a female CEO were more likely than those with male leadership to extend reproductive benefits after the Supreme Court decision. Organizations with more women in their workforce and on their corporate boards were also more likely to make a post-Dobbs benefit announcement. Prior research has found that female leaders generally cultivate more female-friendly workplaces, and abortion-related benefits seem no exception.
One example, Julia Hartz, CEO and co-founder of Eventbrite
Organizations whose CEOs donate more to Democratic candidates were also more likely to extend benefits. The same is true if the firm’s workforce contains more Democratic-leaning workers.
For those employees who want to seek out companies that have instituted these travel policies, the researchers were able to locate 487 of them. Lists of these organizations compiled by Leopard.fyi, a platform designed to help women find hospitable work environments, and Rhia Ventures, a venture capital firm targeting women’s health, provide a great start.