So Facebook and Apple are paying for female employees to freeze their eggs, to enable them to continue working for longer before having children, according to NBC news this week. It’s billed as the latest in a series of benefits provided by the corporate giants, as part of what’s termed a “perks arms race”.
But what message does it send to women? Does it say “we value you and want to do what’s best for you”? Or is the message more like “we don’t see babies as a good fit for your career”?
Deliberate or not, the latter is the message that seeps through. At a cynical level, it could be read as a targeted attempt by businesses to get what they can from female employees, before they become nuisances by going off to have babies. But even removing the cynical filter; allowing for the fact that this may not be the intention, that’s how women will hear it.
Surely any female employee working for a company that offers this benefit will feel obliged to at least consider it? And will some perhaps go through with it, in order to be seen as career-focused and driven? Could it become the badge of female ambition?
Apart from putting pressure on women to partake in egg-freezing, it may also induce them to delay having children naturally. A work environment that offers egg-freezing is implicitly hinting that having babies later in life is a good idea. It’s saying that having children is incompatible with career progression; that the two don’t mix.
For decades, women have been fighting to have both – to start a family and continue a career. And every woman knows that there’s a movable balance in that equation – an employee with her eye on the CEO’s office probably works longer hours and sees her kids less than the person who is looking to progress but not to the top position (and even there, there are exceptions, particularly in companies that value ability and productivity over quantity of hours worked).
Suggesting (deliberately or not) that delaying child rearing is optimal for women who want to continue their careers is a backwards step, and completely at odds with everything that career-women with children have been trying to achieve.
There’s also an underlying assumption that egg-freezing is a simple process. It involves injections, an egg harvesting procedure, and then IVF at a later stage. Egg-freezing for medical reasons makes sense. Or for women who would like to one day settle down with a partner but haven’t met the right person yet. Or even for career-purposes; as an insurance policy albeit with a non-guaranteed outcome. Where a woman chooses to do this herself, it is something practical. But with this being sold as a “perk” by large corporations, there is a risk that it will be perceived as a simple procedure, with a guaranteed family at a later stage.
Instead of paying for egg-freezing, why not put investment and resources into supporting women and men who choose to combine career and family?
Like supporting flexible working hours or remote working? Or onsite subsidized childcare? Or a benefits package that includes additional payments to be used for crèche? Or paid parental leave, so that fathers are incentivized to take time off, allowing mothers to return to work with greater peace of mind? Or, as this initiative comes from the US, how about some basic maternity leave?
The egg-freezing benefit suggests that women should stay in the workplace, spending all their time and energy for as long as possible, and then be put out the pasture to have children at a later age. It treats women like functional robots – a cog in the industrial wheel when they’re young, then out of sight when they’re done contributing everything they can in the workplace.
It separates career and family in an unnecessary and regressive manner. It tells young women that must choose between the two, or that they should delay having families if they want to succeed. The cost of leaning in has just gone up.
6 thoughts on “Apple and Facebook Are Paying for Egg-freezing – But at What Cost?”
It is wrong on soooo many levels, including a biological one. I understand and respect why some women choose it but not something to be taken lightly and definitely not something that should become an acceptable norm imposed on women so they can extend their work life before children. There are so many reasons why the frozen eggs may not yield a baby one day, and age can be one of those factors. I could rant here for a long time! Great post!
Naomi Lavelle recently posted…Mystery Creature – can you name it?
That’s it – so many reasons why it’s not a good plan, especially if there’s an expectation that it’s a guaranteed baby at the end. I saw Kathryn Thomas saying today that she wishes RTE offered it – I totally see her point – she sounds like she would be someone interested in doing it. But that’s different to big corporations putting it out there as a standard means of prolonging careers. Then again, I’ve heard nothing at all about what Apple or Facebook have to say about it. It has created a very interesting debate anyway.
I heard that on the radio today, and I swear, I thought it was a hoax, like one of those Waterford Whisperer articles! I couldn’t believe it was actually true. Obviously, the people in APPLE and Facebook who have come up with that idea are men. They don’t seem to understand the risks for women to have babies later in life, and there’s not even a guarantee the IVF would work. In my opinion, it will just put more pressure on women in these companies to go ahead with the procedure, and that if they don’t do it, it would compromise their chance of promotion, even if they are told it wouldn’t be the case. That’s an open door to all kind of abuse… Has the world gone mad? I wonder…
Nearly Irish recently posted…My idea of hell
I know – I couldn’t believe it when I heard it first either. But when you read the US websites, it’s kind of being seen quite positively. It’s very interesting to hear the different reactions. I think it’s a terrible idea, but I can also understand that women who are very career-focused and have not had kids yet might genuinely be interested. But then you have the problem of the ones who aren’t but feel they have to go along with it. And of course, the potential misunderstanding about how likely it is to succeed.
I think this is a classic example of the assumed power these companies have over life “experiences”, and the pervasive commodification of the essence of those human experiences. It begins with cynical exploitation through manipulative weepy adverts that pillage human connections and sells them back to us through the must-have gadget deemed necessary to create and capture them; and it ends with this nonsense that the majority of common sense women will laugh at. In ways it an extension of the myth of the career-go-getting women hedging her fertility bets, which has always been a grossly simplified exaggeration and largely a media construct.
As always with these companies, the controversy is gaining them levels of publicity that must have their marketing department weeping with joy. I hope they’re time-lining it with along with some suitably emotional photos. To enhance the authenticity of the moment etc.
MO’D recently posted…Tuesday Night Music Club #1
MO’D, you have a way with words that it is second to none!
Saps. I like that a LOT.
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