No one likes a smart-aleck who says “I told you so.” But–along with many other Hoosiers–I told you so.
The Indianapolis Star recently reported on one part of the economic fallout created by the culture warriors at the Indiana Statehouse.The headline confirms the findings: “Indiana politics make it difficult for tech industry to recruit, keep employees in state.”
The disconnect is growing between Indiana’s mounting socially conservative policies, which includes not only the near-total abortion ban currently stalled in court, but also a ban on trans girls playing school sports, and the tech industry’s increasingly vocal progressive workforce.
The tension is brewing as major employers struggle to recruit and keep employees in the state, a problem that is snowballing into a crisis for Indiana.
It isn’t just the tech sector. In the wake of the legislature’s hasty passage of the abortion ban in the wake of the Dobbs decision, a financial magazine quoted David Ricks, the CEO of Eli Lilly and Co.,reporting on requests he’d been getting from employees wanting to transfer out of Indiana. (Other non-tech employers have voiced similar concerns, and admissions officers at several of the state’s institutions of higher education expect fewer female applicants for admission.)
The tech workers who spoke with the Star following passage of the ban–ranging from those working in startups to employees of global software companies– reported that the abortion ban had prompted a number of coworkers to start looking for jobs in other states.
Some tech workers said the abortion ban would make it scary for them to start families because of concern that they couldn’t get the health care if they developed complications during pregnancies…
But for others, it’s not just the ban, but what it signals for the future for other social issues, such as LGBTQ rights.
As the article notes, tech workers are some of the most in-demand employees across the country. A significant number can weigh multiple job offers against each other, and a decision about where to locate will depend upon the attractiveness of the community in which they will be employed, as well as the company making the offer.
Jordan Thayer, a trans woman working as a consultant in automation for a software development company in Carmel, said she’s worried that she soon won’t be free to live her life as she wants and her family won’t be safe if they need pregnancy care.
She sees states like Tennessee proposing to ban drag performances in public and worries those laws will come to Indiana and make it hard for her to be out in public, she said.
So, long term, her family won’t stay.
“I don’t want to have to jump employers and change states in a hurry,” she said. “So, we’re looking now.”
Industry analysts warn that tech companies in states where abortion access and LGBTQ rights are restricted will need to offer remote work to attract some applicants. Those (well-paid) remote workers will be lost to Indiana–they’ll pay taxes to the states in which they reside, and they’ll patronize the bars, restaurants and businesses in those states.
The article quoted a female CEO:
You want to live in a community that supports your values and your life style,” she said. “If you’re a woman and you have a choice between living in a state that provides you a great job and your reproductive rights versus a state with a great job and no reproductive rights, it’s easily a tie-breaker.”
It isn’t as though Indiana is otherwise a sought-after place to live. We don’t have natural amenities, like mountains or lakes or great weather, and thanks to the gerrymandering that has protected a retrograde legislature unwilling to spend tax dollars to improve the quality of life, we have multiple other deficits.
As the article acknowledged:
Long before the Supreme Court became a super conservative majority that would reshape federal and state policies, Indiana has struggled with attracting top talent. Economists have pointed to a mix of reason, including lack of good schools, flat and largely landlocked landscape, poor infrastructure and sparse attractions and amenities compared to other states.
And so even when everything is equal: company brand, salary to cost of living ratio, amenities in the city, the social laws of the state is a tie-breaker, several tech workers said.
Indiana’s abortion ban may well be struck down for violating the religious liberties of Hoosiers whose religions permit abortion and prioritize the health of the mother, but–as the article makes clear–the ban is only one aspect of a legislative agenda that will keep Indiana firmly rooted in the 1950s–and on the “avoid” list of skilled Americans with other options.