Prior to last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to rescind Roe v. Wade, American women held a federally guaranteed, constitutional right to abortion access. Friday’s decision revoked that right for millions of American women and birthing people, and we now face a future where many of our mothers and grandmothers held more rights than we do.
As two female Co-CEOs of a multi-billion dollar RIA firm in an industry often conspicuously silent on social issues, let us be clear: We unapologetically support every woman’s right to control her own body.
As women who have each had unique and non-typical reproductive journeys of our own, we believe women and birthing people should have the same agency, autonomy, and protections as any other citizen.
What We’re Doing to Enact Change
At Abacus, we have always supported employees to make empowered decisions for themselves and their families. Our benefits include unlimited paid vacation, subsidized health insurance, and a full 24 weeks of paid, non-gender specific parental leave (whether through traditional birth or adoption). We believe a remarkable thing happens when you actually empower employees: You get a happier, more trusting, and productive environment. And our clients get better service.
To better support our employees, we are working with our HR and legal teams to create the following policy: Abacus will provide financial support for any employee, spouse, or dependent who needs to travel for healthcare (including reproductive care, gender-affirming care, and any other healthcare) that is covered by our insurance but not accessible in their state of residence.
Unfortunately, what was a constitutional right last week is now a private health decision that must be shared with employers. The privacy of our employees and their families is our top concern, so we are also creating an internal policy that allows for as much privacy as possible while accessing this benefit.
The Economics Behind a Lack of Choice
Some may be asking, “What does a Supreme Court abortion ruling have to do with financial services anyway?” The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that “…being denied an abortion has large and persistent negative effects on a woman’s financial well-being.” Unpaid debts rise, credit scores fall, and evictions and bankruptcies increase following unwanted pregnancies. There is an additional outsized impact on marginalized women and girls (Black, Brown, and those with fewer resources) who have limited access to adequate healthcare and contraception.
Women already earn 82 cents on the dollar compared to men. For minority women, that number is even lower. There is also a widely documented “motherhood penalty” where, compared to their male counterparts, women’s income falls when they become mothers.
This Supreme Court decision will likely exacerbate these disparities in pay, representation, and advancement for women and pregnant people in the years ahead. The financial services industry already suffers from a severe lack of female and LGBT+ representation and racial diversity; this not only affects future employees and their livelihoods, but ultimately deprives future potential clients of being represented by an advisor who might speak more to their unique life experiences.
Speaking Specifically to the Financial Services Industry
We are in an industry known for staying quiet.
As just one example, our country’s racial and gender diversity far outpaces our industry makeup; only 24% of CFPs are women and only 1.7% are Black (versus representing 50% and 13% of our population respectively). It is time to expand the table, invite in other voices, and find solutions that we simply cannot create by sitting in a circle with people who only look like us. We are not perfect in this area nor do we claim to be, and yet, as part of our diversity commitment at Abacus, we have learned some things over the past few years that we recommend companies consider:
- Take a hard look at your benefits to see if they support ALL employees. Expand parental leave. Make more flexible workplaces.
- Create clear and transparent career paths and compensation wherever possible. Promote based on skills and accomplishments. Transparency will drive your company towards pay equity.
- Reduce bias in the hiring process by setting clear role requirements, incorporating skills based assessments, and expanding your hiring pool to avoid the “diversity candidate” tax.
- Use your voice. Speak up and advocate for the women on your teams and those sitting across from you as clients.
- Research and select asset managers that prioritize gender equity and justice.
We recognize people feel strongly about this deeply personal topic and that there are employees, clients, and stakeholders who will not agree with us. We strive to see these challenges through as many different lenses as possible – even when there is disagreement. In a rich and complex world of intersecting beliefs, these disagreements can coexist with upholding our commitment to equal access to healthcare and more equitable economic advancement.
Mary Beth Storjohann, Co-CEO Abacus Wealth Partners
Neela Hummel, Co-CEO Abacus Wealth Partners