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In a Politicized America, SiriusXM Faces Employee Pressure to Leave Georgia

October 22, 2019, 10:07 PM UTC

As political tensions overflow into the conversations at board rooms and water coolers across corporate America, employees are increasingly calling for their C-Suite to take a stance.

This has left corporate leadership with a new job: How to position their company at a time when consumers and employees are demanding that they take a stand, while also not alienating the other side.

“We have a newly opened headquarters in Atlanta. And when the Georgia [abortion] law went into effect, there were a lot of us who were very upset and saw it as an assault on women’s rights, a war on women at the start,” said Dara Altman, chief administrative officer and executive vice president of Sirius XM Radio during a town hall at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. “A lot of us in the [San Francisco Bay] area and at Pandora said, okay, pull out—get out of Atlanta.”

Sirius XM, which recently acquired internet radio station Pandora for $3.5 billion, ultimately decided to stay in the state, though Altman added that it is an ongoing issue: “But I don’t know where we are going to go if things get worse and abortion gets prohibited in certain states. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Sirius XM is not the only company that has considered leaving the state. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed to so-called “heartbeat bill” earlier this year, a bill that restricts abortions six weeks into a pregnancy, into law. Disney, WarnerMedia, and Netflix said they would reconsider filming in the state. The bill, which was expected to take effect Jan. 1, has since been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.

Other executives at the conference echoed her sentiment.

“I had a group of employees approach me because they were conservative and they thought we were leaning one way,” said Liz Ross, president and CEO of ad agency Periscope, noting that the conversation occurred around the time of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. “We’re in Minneapolis, so its a little more (politically) even than say the coast, but how you create an environment that is inclusive is a big challenge on either side.”

Now, walking that line is one of the most difficult components of the job, says Ancestry CEO and President Margo Georgiadis.

“It’s probably the biggest challenge we all face right now because we are all constantly being confronted with these issues because people don’t trust governments to get things done. I would say every other week, we’re getting emails from a group of employees saying, we’d really like you to take a position on this issue,” she said. “It’s challenging and we’ve put a lot of work into creating these principals on where do we do that, and where do we not.”

“It’s really tricky to draw that boundary between work and life, because when people spend more time at work than they do the rest of their lives, they look to us, I believe, as leaders,” she said.

More must-read stories from Fortune’s MPW Summit:

—How a corporate board can engage on company culture
—The ‘sisterhood’ isn’t working for all women in business—yet
—These reps want to make Congress work better by electing more women—to both parties
Old Navy CEO says inclusivity is key to the brand’s growth, now and post spinoff
—Anita Hill calls on candidates to address gender violence
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