By Wendy Widom
CHICAGO (CBS) — As a woman who had a child in her thirties and will probably encourage my daughter to freeze her eggs someday, I should be thrilled by the news that Facebook and Apple will now cover the costs of elective egg freezing for their employees. But I’m not quite ready to celebrate. In fact, I’m uneasy about the companies’ motivations and dismayed about the message this sends to women both before and after they have kids.READ MORE: Nearly 18,000 Unemployment Claims Filed In Illinois Last Week Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Why are Facebook and Apple now paying for this procedure, which can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per cycle? I imagine it has something to do with gender inequality within their ranks. Only 15 percent of Facebook’s tech department is female, reports Computerworld UK. Among its managers, the numbers are only slightly higher, at 23 percent. Apple, according to Geekwire, has similar diversity problems, with a paltry 20 percent of women in tech roles.
While I am eager to see the gender gap closed, the idea of employers plotting to resolve serious diversity issues by futzing with women’s reproductive systems is invasive and dangerously close to the Brave New World imagined by Aldous Huxley. In this classic novel, the Savage cries to Mustapha Mond that aging is to be embraced and not reviled.
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow,” he bemoans. Yet again, companies like Facebook and Apple are sending the message to women that they need to stuff their best career years into the period before motherhood.READ MORE: When Insurance Company Wouldn't Budge On His Claim, He Took Matters Into His Own Hands; Who Monitors Complaints Against Insurers In Illinois?
For deep cultural change to finally take place, it’s time to reframe the conversation about women and work. At forty, I have no doubt that I have just entered my peak years of performance. Motherhood has made me more organized, efficient and productive, as well as a solid team player eager to tackle the unexpected. I am glad Facebook and Apple are covering the costs of egg freezing, but it is just as important to create organizational career paths that allow women to thrive after having children.
Let’s remember: even modern businesses like Facebook and Apple are still following a blueprint created almost entirely by men. Our understanding of performance and professional success is shaped by this as well. Young women are now caught in a quagmire; they must strive to make the workforce more hospitable to them while simultaneously taking steps to preserve their possibility of having children as they climb an inflexible corporate ladder. It’s an absurdly difficult situation to put them in.
I try to imagine what it would be like to have a career do over. Would I focus this time around on professional advancement, or would I serve in the Peace Corps, as I did at 23? Would I feel pressure to freeze my eggs if my employer was footing the bill and all my female colleagues were doing it? Getting my career back on track after baby was an arduous task I would never want to repeat. But plowing through the early years of motherhood in a demanding, full-time role was not the right fit either. The question becomes: where do women belong in today’s workforce?
Freezing one’s eggs is not an easy decision to make. Nor is the process itself easy. This decision must be based on a woman’s personal needs, not on what will make her company look good when it releases its next report on gender diversity. I can’t help but think Facebook and Apple are offering free egg freezing, in part, as the latest corporate perk. In this case, rather than a foosball table or quinoa in a corporate kitchen, Facebook and Apple are using the tantalizing dream of motherhood as a means to recruit and retain more women.MORE NEWS: Local Vaccination Sites Begin Administering Pfizer Vaccine To Kids Ages 12 To 15 Thursday; Some Sites Extend Hours
After a long silence, the Savage in Houxley’s Brave New World has this to say to Mustapha Mond, as he sums up his desire to get older, even with its possibilities of pain, loss and imperfection: “I claim them all.” Here’s hoping that someday Facebook and Apple will do the same for women, no matter what our age and egg quality.