I’m sure we’ve all heard by now: Apple and Facebook recently announced that they are willing to pay female employees up to $20,000 to electively freeze their eggs, and by doing so, the companies hope to help recruit top female talent. The announcement was lauded by some, saying this option gives women the choice to put off having children so they can focus on their careers during peak childbearing years. I understand the thought – these companies think they are helping women (and this is true in some cases). But they’re missing a critical point by incentivizing work productivity – and women staying in the workplace for the long-run – over all else, rather than allowing for policies that encourage more work-life balance.
Paying for the cost of freezing eggs is just a Band-Aid for a larger problem: the need for flexible leave policies to create a more balanced work culture beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.
It also brings up the concept of choice and privilege. I have been ridiculed many times for being a working mother. These comments are usually made by men whose wives have chosen to stay home (and have the means to do so). This is great if that is what you choose – but what about the millions of women with children who have to work? The recent announcements from Facebook and Apple reinforce how little the corporate world values a working mother. Just look at research recently accumulated by the New York Times, which noted, “Childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents” for every man’s dollar. The New York Times also cited a recent Cornell study, in which identical fake resumes were sent to employers – the ones that clearly belonged to mothers were offered, on average, $11,000 less than childless women and $13,000 less than fathers. Clearly, companies assume that the most productive female worker is a childless one. By offering to freeze a woman’s eggs, they are really offering the same old choice: a promising career, or motherhood.
It also leaves men out of the equation. Men should also be afforded more equitable workplace policies, so they can be equal partners in raising children, and participants in a more balanced culture as well. Part of the reason men are so highly valued in the workplace is because it is assumed they will not carry the brunt of child-rearing, and can be productive at work without personal distractions. This is all backwards. We need to bring men more into the picture and value them for being fathers and involved partners, not just stoic workhorses. This is one of the many reasons I made my upcoming documentary The Mask You Live In – to be a catalyst for cultural change. Time and time again I speak with fathers who feel tremendous conflict and ultimately suffer from not being involved in the lives of their children.
It’s really quite simple: we need more family friendly work policies to get women into leadership during their childbearing years, to help men have the choice to participate in child-rearing, and to encourage companies to engage in a more balanced culture.
Don’t get me wrong, if freezing your eggs is the choice you want to make – go for it. And I do applaud Facebook and Apple for producing the option to those who choose to benefit from it. But at the same time, we should all have the opportunity to have a real choice in a more balanced workplace that values employees as human beings for more than just productivity. After all, a happy workplace is a productive workplace.