On paper, Oklahoma seems like a good place for starting a business: low taxes, plentiful affordable housing, very low cost of living in comparison to California. But after making abortions illegal after “fertilization” — by far the most restrictive in the US — the state is finding it difficult to attract talent.
Erika Lukas has been involved in Oklahoma’s start-up community for 20 years. She is a former private equity partner and a co-founder of StitchCrew, an independent organization that partners with Google and the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder to support women and entrepreneurs of color in the region.
Lately, her efforts to attract tech talent to Oklahoma have met with strong resistance — especially with female entrepreneurs:
“They’re telling me they aren’t moving here [,,,]. By passing laws like this, we’re sending the signal that we don’t care about women’s] participation in the labor labor force… Why would you consider our state? I know that some of my fellow colleagues in economic development will argue well—you know—we’re low on taxes or we are a cheap state… Again, our biggest challenge is talent. We can have the lowest cost of business; we can have the lowest cost of tax infrastructure. But if I can’t have talent to actually grow my company sustainably, then it doesn’t matter. It’s not just women, because this is not a women’s issue. This is going to affect everyone.
We know that women represent 50% of the population. We know that women represent more than 40% of businesses in the U.S. And we know that we represent more than50% of the labor force. We also know that the number one determining factor in a woman’s trajectory, whether it’s in life or career, is our ability to make our own choices when it comes to reproductive health— being able to plan when and how we have families.
Oklahoma is not the only state passing medieval laws that hurt women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. By appeasing the Christo-Fascist minority in their states they are damaging the long-term economic growth prospects. They will lose the “war for talent” and over time become economic backwaters.