Instead of telling women to freeze their eggs, companies should be examining the unrealistic demands they place on employees.
Facebook and Apple will now pay for female employees to freeze their eggs. Facebook just started covering the procedure, and Apple’s coverage will begin in January. For many, that’s great news, but I’ve got a major problem the underlying message.
Let’s see, women find it difficult to get ahead in their careers so what should we do?
A. Advise and pay for a woman to go through two medical procedures (freezing eggs and then using the eggs) to bear a child.
B. Make changes to our workplaces to make it possible for people at various life stages to fit in human activity, such as childbearing and childrearing, caring for elderly parents, and other very human pursuits.
If you are Apple and Facebook, the answer is A. But I hope the rest of us can see that freezing eggs as the solution to work/life balance is also A for Absurd.
The egg-freezing strategy means that Apple and Facebook are also saying “It’s up to each woman to plan her way through her worklife. If she doesn’t, then too bad, it’s her fault.”
I have already taken to task individuals who advise women to freeze their eggs, not dreaming we would see companies offer to pay for it and then be praised for it. All of this implies women can simply plan and choose our way through today’s worklife challenges—marry the right guy, don’t lean back, choose a family-friendly career, have kids early, have kids late, freeze your eggs, just ask for flexibility– actually prevents us from taking effective actions.
Add freezing eggs to the long list of absurd extremes companies will go to—provide meals, deliver drycleaning, provide childcare on-site, and so on—to avoid having to question the flawed assumption that it is reasonable and human to expect that each and every person will work 50 hours a week, 50+ weeks a year, for 50 years of his or her life.
Individually these types of services probably provide real benefit to some employees, but in aggregate the message is that as a company—and a society—we will do whatever it takes so we don’t have to change how we define the “ideal worker.”
How about a third option?
C. Take this egg-freezing job and shove it.
Kristin Maschka is a best-selling author and a consultant who catalyzes leaders to make change and achieve their aspirations at home, at work and in their communities. Kristin brings a fresh perspective and authentic voice to the intersecting issues at the heart of life today: organizational change, gender stereotypes, modern motherhood and fatherhood, generational shifts, public education, community organizations, and worklife fit. You can find her on Twitter at @kristinmaschka.