Want More Women in Tech? Stand Up for Abortion Access.

Tech companies want to change the ratio in their ranks; but if they want to hire us, they need to stand up for all of our repro rights.

300+ hackers volunteered to build tech solutions for repro rights nonprofits at the Abortion Access Hackathon at Github — credit Fox Nakai, March 2017.

As Silicon Valley remains mired in allegations of systemic sexual harassment and discrimination, tech might not be the first industry we think of when we think of those that hold disproportionate power to speak up and make huge impacts to protect and secure abortion access. But as tech companies struggle to convince women to work for them across the board, they forget they have a rare ability to stand up for a civil right that 1 in 3 of their employees who can get pregnant will eventually need: the right to safely access an abortion.

This coming September 28th marks International Safe Abortion Day, where we can speak out publicly in support to make sure we’re #LeavingNoOneBehind.

100+ hackers join forces at Buzzfeed NY to work on abortion fund web design and repro rights advocacy data projects — credit Alix Lacoste, Sept 2017.

So, what can you, the rank and file employees of the tech industry, do to support abortion access on September 28th? I’m glad you asked! A non-exhaustive list of ways that we as tech companies and teams can help:

  1. Ensure that your company has a robust medical leave program, and ensure the healthcare plan your benefits team picked covers abortion. Ask HR for plan docs.
  2. If they don’t, write in and ask your HRBP, employee relations, or benefits team to pick a plan that covers abortion at next year’s renegotiation.
  3. Get company ERGs on board to lobby for abortion coverage. These employee orgs often provide support to coworkers having trouble balancing work with medical needs, so they’ll often have relationships with the correct benefits teams, and can benefit also from sharing resources on how to support a team member through abortion.
  4. Ask your ERG to sponsor a tech talk on cybersecurity in abortion access. (Need referrals for speakers? Reach out in the comments.)
  5. Donate to abortion funds and include them in your company’s charitable matching programs. Find a list of funds and find out how to reach your local one at https://abortionfunds.org/.
  6. Tech companies often have large spaces that often stay empty after work hours end. You as an employee can sponsor a repro rights org to host their next fundraiser or hackathon in your space and save them a ton of overhead on a venue.
  7. Lobby your team to donate software and when possible dev time to access organizations. Many nonprofits use big box CRMs or other systems needing configuration.
  8. Talk to your trust and safety team about checking for deceiving or harmful practices anti-choice groups can engage in using your software, like driving misleading search results to keep people from accessing care by sending them to fake clinic locations, or hosting webpages that dox doctors, activists, and clinic escort volunteers.

Note for HR professionals out there: You can help break stigma by updating any company handouts for details about maternity and parental leave to note that benefits coverage is provided for a full spectrum of reproductive care services, including birth control, miscarriage support, and abortion care.

Official “out loud” support for abortion access is especially important at companies where having an abortion can mean needing time off for days of travel, recovery, and enduring unexpected financial hardship, especially for those on hourly or contractor teams rather than salaried teams. Employees are often anxious to request a sick day or medical leave because they fear stigma from their company and management, and the dance of secrecy with an HR team that isn’t “out” about support can add stress to those needing either voluntary or involuntary termination of a pregnancy.

When a tech company speaks up and says, “we support the right to access safe abortion” (which is of course, the law of the land), their teams might feel a little less at risk when they may need to navigate their job alongside accessing any kind of reproductive care, including preventative care, ongoing treatment, abortion, miscarriage, or pregnancy leave and parental leave.

Within the tech industry we’re in a rare position to be able to take a stand on these reproductive rights issues that are especially under fire from increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks and tech resource erasure. We enjoy relative wealth-density, general insulation from many of the issues experienced by peers in industries or regions where abortion access is under especially intense attack, and we’re really good building the kinds of help nonprofits actually really need: help automating their admin tasks so they can focus on their increasingly important work.

I believe together we can ask our tech companies to take a stand for those of us who they wish to hire and hope can feel comfortable working both at their organization and in our industry. If you out loud say you will defend our right to bodily integrity and autonomy, we will want that much more to lend our skills to help your company in particular to be the one to build a better world.

Take a stand, lobby your company to join you, and encourage others to do the same on the #LeavingNoOneBehind hashtag on Twitter.