Early last week, Facebook announced that it would be adding egg-freezing as one of its newest benefits for its women employees, a move that has eyebrows raised.
Facebook declined to comment on this new benefit, Apple is also planning offering incentives for this in January. As one of the first few companies to offer the practice, Apple representatives told the Los Angeles Times, “We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.”
But is that the real reason? Facebook and Apple claim to be about corporate family friendliness, and yet neither company offers in-house daycare or daycare vouchers, aren’t offering flexible leave, a decreased pay gap, or any of the social conditions it takes to actually raise children. Furthermore, they still place the onus on child rearing on women with the incentive of egg freezing. It’s not progressive or family friendly. It’s kind of gross.
According to Business Insider‘s Sabrina Parson’s:
The age at which most men and women are at the peak of their careers also happens to be the same age most women begin to have children. And in corporate America, motherhood is viewed as a liability. Childcare responsibilities still primarily fall on the mother, and the US requires businesses to offer the least amount of maternity leave among all developed countries. Not to mention that we’re still confined to a relatively strict 9-5 work schedule.
So, mid-career women often face a decision: advance in their careers or start a family. Those who choose to have children are far more likely than working fathers to take extensive time off from their careers, putting them at a major disadvantage when it comes to raises and promotions.
The message Facebook and Apple are sending? We know you are in a bind — here’s how we think we can fix it so that it benefits us.
Egg freezing isn’t the bad thing here. In a rapidly globalizing culture where making ends meet is becoming harder and more people are delaying the once-markers of “adulthood”—marriage, kids, a pretty little house in the burbs that could be sustained by a sole income (usually dad’s). Not only is life more expensive, but women have more access to work realms once unknown. We are able to have careers. While egg freezing offers a great alternative, especially those with health problems like endometriosis, what remains disturbing is the significant role that larger companies are aiming to play in the reproductive choices of women, while ignoring the very real socioeconomic factors that actually make choosing to have children possible.
As Vanessa McGrady from Jezebel writes:
Women are more likely to take time off to raise families or take care of aging parents. They’re less likely to have sufficient retirement funds, yet more likely to outlive their male partners.
With the bulk of unpaid family care falling to women — and a significant lack of workplace support for the same — there’s no doubt that women will jump at the chance to freeze their eggs on the company dime. But, in the best-case scenario, let’s say a woman successfully gets pregnant a decade after freezing her eggs, once she feels fully ready. And then what? She confronts the lack of employer support for everything after the positive pink line shows up on the pregnancy test..
Maybe it isn’t that women are consciously choosing to delay kids or marriage because they just want to. Maybe it’s because women still get paid on average, 78 cents per male dollar, and just this past September, The Paycheck Fairness Act fell short, making this the third time the Senate has failed to pass the measure since spring of 2012.
Maybe it’s because in the tech world, where you have Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggesting women should not ask for raises because it will come naturally and everyone gets paid equally, a statement that rings hollow, given the statistics of women in tech still being vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts.
Maybe it’s because the US has the worst maternity leave laws in the world and no, that isn’t hyperbole. Between the US being only one of three countries in the world not to have maternity leave (smushed in next to Papua New Guinea and Oman) and future and potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton point blankly stating “I don’t think, politically, we could get it now,” things don’t look good.
There are a lot of maybes here.
But egg freezing doesn’t just tell women to put choosing parenthood on the back burner until some magical point in which their lives coalesce together for parenthood — it tells a very specific and slim margin of women. Women still may be at .78 on average, but in comparison to the average salary of women in the rest of the US — a whopping $37,791, and egg freezing typically running between $6,500 and $15,000 per cycle, companies like Apple and Facebook are only willing to pay $20,000 of that amount, in which case, may leave you covered, and given the averages for how many cycles a women needs before it works — may not.
But despite all this, the real question here is what is the message when mega-corporations like Lean-In-friendly Facebook is offering to put your eggs on hold and Hobby Lobby will deny their employees birth control coverage? Why is Apple offering to pay for a procedure that would delay motherhood for some of their employees, but not necessarily offer better support for mothers post-egg freeze? I am suspicious — deeply suspicious — in any company that tends to assume it knows hands down what all of its women employees are longing for their reproductive needs.
These are band-aids, not solutions.