Is Egg Freezing the Key to Gender Equality?

I saw an article this week that talked about how Facebook and Apple are offering a new benefit to their employees through health insurer Aenta.  They will cover the cost of a woman electing to freeze her eggs so presumably she can have children via IVF later in life.

Wow, I have very mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I appreciate an employer who recognizes that some of their employees are struggling with life/work balance issues and they’re attempting (at not insignificant expense) to help them with it. And maybe this is some kind of genuine, albeit ham-handed, attempt by a male-dominated industry to recruit women.

Some women will benefit from this very much.  They really will.  And this is a good thing.

However, I read an article that speculated whether this move will create gender equality in the workplace.  Lets not get carried away here.  It isn’t the condition of a woman’s eggs that creates an environment where she makes less money than a man doing the same work.  It’s a whole lot more than that.

I can’t help but think that paying for women in the workforce to freeze their eggs is just avoiding what is really needed to help women balance families and careers.  We need affordable, quality child care in this country.  We need paid maternity leave guaranteed by law.  We need decisions around a woman’s health (including birth control) to be solely between her and her doctor.  And, of course, we need equal pay for equal work.

A lot of loyal employees at Apple and Facebook are going to freeze their eggs, dust themselves off, and go back to work.  But when are they going to find the perfect time to get pregnant and pop that kid out?

As someone who personally delayed having children, I don’t know if it’s easier now, at this later stage in life, than it would have been when I was younger.  I may make a little bit more money now, but I still pay an arm and a leg for child care and I still took an unpaid maternity leave that was just too short.  But now I am older and have less energy at the end of a long day.  And I’m still trying to figure out how to get it all done at work and at home, just like a younger me would have had to do.

Also, not to get too dark here, but am I the only one who wonders what message these companies are sending to young women entering their workforces?  To me, it seems like the message is that these women will need to delay having families in order to be successful at those companies.

In any case, I do very much support whatever a company wants to do to allow its employees to make their own decisions about when to have a family.  I just don’t think we should read too much into this egg-freezing-as-an-employer-benefit trend.

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