Today, employers are aware that diversity supports business performance. According to McKinsey research, companies with the most ethnically and racially varied workforces have a competitive advantage over less diverse companies in the same industry.
However, health equity remains an issue for many Black, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ+ individuals at large U.S. employers. A McKinsey survey showed that Black, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ+ individuals said they were less likely to receive the care they needed. They were also more likely than the overall population to consider switching employers due to reasons related to benefits.
Supporting health equity in the workplace does more than support a healthier, more productive workforce. Doing so creates a better society. Providing fertility and reproductive benefits in the workplace is one way to support health equity efforts that can have an impact for generations to come.
Reproductive health disparities and social determinants of health
A multitude of data supports prioritizing the reproductive health needs of Black, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ+ individuals:
- Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women.
- Native Americans and Alaska Natives have an infant mortality rate that is 60% higher than the rate for their white counterparts.
In addition, about 80% of health outcomes are determined by Social Determinants of Health including economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and environment, and social and community context.
The McKinsey report found that 65% of full-time employees at large U.S. employers had experienced at least one unmet need. Sixty-six percent of LGBTQ+ individuals and 69% of employees of color with a household income of less than $100,000, had experienced two or more unmet basic needs. The stigma, prejudice, and discrimination experienced due to marginalized identities have also been incisively framed as a key social determinant of health for sexual minority individuals.
Paid family leave
A lack of paid family leave, including time off after birth, is considered a public health crisis in the U.S. Studies have shown that the time to recover after birth without worries about money improves maternal and infant health.
The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world without a national policy that guarantees time off to new parents. Many countries offer an average of 18 weeks paid maternity leave, and beyond 6 months in many developed countries. Although the Family Medical Leave Act provides unpaid time off, almost half of workers are not eligible and many cannot afford time off without pay.
A review of medical leave policies found that reforms that increased job-protected paid parental leave improved women’s economic outcomes. It also showed that access to paid parental leave appears to reduce rates of infant mortality, with breastfeeding as one possible reason.
Barriers can cause distrust and care delays that lead to potential health issues
Black and other diverse families have encountered structural racism and institutional policies that have created boundaries that delay access to care. A shortage of racially and ethnically diverse providers including obstetricians and nurses, along with the inability to access caregivers such as midwives and birthing doulas, causes distrust and can create a delay in seeking care at the earliest stages of pregnancy.
This is especially dangerous for women with preexisting conditions or who are facing issues such as infertility as it can increase the risk of co-morbidities during pregnancy and potential maternal death. These shortages of providers can occur across income and can be demonstrated in a lack of providers who are racially and ethnically diverse.
How can employers support culturally competent care
There are a number of ways employers can counteract this shortage of providers and provide culturally competent care for individuals as they build families.
Stork Club benefits include travel for any reproductive healthcare. This benefit can open access to vital specialty care that is not available in all locations and to seeing professionals that are more culturally aligned with an individual. It can also be used for high-risk pregnancy or reproductive care for LGBTQ+ members, high-performance fertility care, or pregnancy termination care in certain states where care is not equally available to all people.
Stork Club is the first in the US to offer managed birth doula care under employer-sponsored health plans. Stork Club's Birth Doula Program network includes vetted Black, Hispanic, Asian, and doulas with other diverse identities and lived experiences, to meet the needs of pregnant persons better. Interested in implementing doula care to your benefits package? Sign up to view a demo