Should the question be “when women should have a child” or “who should help in raising it”?
Exciting times ahead, women.
In a move to attract more high level female talent, the top brass at Apple and Facebook have decided to foot the bill for women employees to freeze their eggs. Because – you know- woman be wanting to make pretty babies and not spending enough time on the spreadsheets.
Facebook recently introduced this coverage under its surrogacy benefits. Beginning in January, Apple will pick up the tab on bills up to $20,000 for egg-freezing procedures taken by its female employees. This is in addition to Facebook’s $4,000 cash bonus to new parents and Apple’s 18-week paid maternity leave.
And while there’s a part of us that lauds this effort (and really, we are always pro-technology and don’t share some of the world’s fears about women in their 40s or even 50s giving birth), there’s another part that thinks that worries how this measure may reek of chauvinism of a different kind. Here’s why:
Women will still continue to earn less
We’ve covered the Gender Pay Gap in this space in the past. And really, the fact that women earn 77 cents to a dollar for every male has nothing to do with their “urge to procreate” and everything to do with institutional sexism. While the pay gap at entry level in tech is closing in (men and women under 35 make about the same wages now); as the article helpfully points out, men with children continue to earn more than women with children.
Women will continue to remain the main child carers
The issue, we firmly believe, is not about women being the child bearers, but about a society that expects them to be the child carers. Countries which have co-opted men in parenting duties more effectively have a better record of bringing women back to the workplace, and a lower pay gap. Just think about it. If instead of providing a woman an option to have her child at 50, society stopped snickering at the thirty-year old men who want to leave at lunch time to pick their kids up from school, aren’t their partners more likely to return to work? As long as women will be expected to take lead role in child rearing, they will continue to play background roles in the corporate world.
The state doesn’t control your womb, your Employer doesn’t control your womb
We’ve worked in large corporations before, and can’t help notice how they act as their own kind of law in a way, precluding free will and suggesting norms of behaviour that make everyone hew to the same standard. It is our fear that a move such as this- instead of empowering women to make their own reproductive decisions- in effect takes away that power from them. If there are two women up for a promotion, who is more likely to get it? The one who has taken on her employer’s ‘benevolence’ and decided to freeze her eggs, or the one who took a year off to take care of her little one but has worked just as hard every day since? (Don’t answer it, we know it’s more likely the male colleague who has his child’s best photograph on the desk but refused to take the mandatory few days off on Paternity Leave).
Policies such as this is more likely than ever to convince society that having a child is a career-killer, and that families and careers are an Either/Or dilemma. If women are to be made an equal participant in the workplace, then they need to be empowered to make the decisions they see right, and not be penalised for a biological imperative.
Tell us what you think is the upside and downside to this latest development in the world of business. We’d love to hear your thoughts on why you think this is a step in the right direction. Because the way things stand right now- it sounds like things are Big Corporate 1: Womanhood 0 yet again.