The story broke this week in TechCrunch, LA Times and many other publications that Facebook and Apple offer a benefit to working mothers of up to $20,000 to freeze eggs. Under pressure early in their career to achieve job success, women face a dilemma that if they put off having children, they face the risk of being less fertile as they grow older. Having the benefit of freezing their eggs doesn’t completely resolve this problem (frozen eggs, implanted later, don’t have the same success rate), but it provides a possibility to have their career and their babies, too.
Not everyone is happy
What might seem like a good thing hasn’t been entirely well received. Sarah Buhr, in the TechCrunch piece, brings up the fact that this benefit doesn’t resolve the underlying problems women will continue to face — that they earn less than men and aren’t given enough time to recover from child birth:
…the problem is not solved by women not having children during their working years. They still earn 82 percent of what men typically earn, childless or not. Further, most workplaces in the U.S. don’t give women ample time to recover from childbirth or accommodate in ways that would make it easier for them to juggle both children and work. The Daily Beast recently documented the cultural practice of the “lie-in” or the act of women caring for other women to give them time to recover.
This is absolutely an issue that needs to be addressed, but I’m not sure this rises to the level of an argument against offering egg freezing.
The real challenge
There’s a bigger issue that has been thrown around, though, that women who don’t choose the egg freezing and decide to have children earlier will be seen as not caring about their careers and employers because they have another option they’re not choosing. This is a stronger argument against the egg freezing benefit than what Buhr writes, because the pay and post-childbirth benefits can and likely will change over time, but the “career dedication” issue won’t and it is absolutely made more complicated by the option of egg freezing. This one is tough.
But this is also an argument that can’t be stopped regardless of the science or an employment benefit. Women who choose to have babies during their most fertile years will continue to face this perception issue. Combatting this issue is much more subtle and involves the way children are raised to respect the other gender for their differences. Getting to the root of the challenge is much more fundamental to our culture, much more varied in every home, city and culture, and will take some time to work through. This is a long fight.
In the meantime, anything that gives women more options is a good thing.