Last week, we saw and heard a number of perspectives in traditional and social media around the announcement that Facebook and Apple are offering their female employees egg freezing as a benefit. Is this promoting crazy expectations for women to put off family and personal balance? Or, is it offering greater flexibility that ultimately empowers women to shape their future the way they want, without the interference of a ticking biological clock?
At Felicity, we celebrate our associates’ needs for work-life integration. So, we asked members of the Felicity team for their thoughts and here’s what they had to say.
The topics of kids and careers should be mutually exclusive. But when you combine the two in the same breath, it can open up a can-of-worms conversation about “shoulds.” It’s a challenge for ambitious and career-driven woman to take things one step at a time, to not peer into or plan too far ahead in the future, to just do what’s right for you and not for others – especially when women simply cannot plan when they’ll conceive a child. As someone who personally put off starting a family a bit in order to seize a great career opportunity, my opinion on the matter is that all you can do is hedge your bets. The more options one has the better. Let’s hope this “anti-should” movement continues to build momentum!
I think a company paying for egg freezing as part of an insurance plan is quite amazing if it’s something a woman is going to do as her choice or for some sort of medical reason. But for an influential company like Apple to offer this to women for no apparent medical reason speaks volumes about their attitudes towards women putting families off and only focusing on their careers. Personally, I wish I could go back in time and have my kids earlier, not later!
I think the issue comes down to a matter of empowerment vs. expectation. Should an employee find themselves in a position where egg freezing becomes their reality, Facebook and Apple’s decision can provide support and a real chance at fertility that could otherwise be completely cost-prohibitive. Depending on how you look at it, this benefit could represent an incredible, forwarding thinking opportunity, or a twisted cost of entry to bypass the glass ceiling. I prefer to support the former perspective. To me, empowering employees to make choices is what ultimate flexibility is all about.
I question if this benefit would actually deter a lot of talented women from working with them. It sounds great in theory. But to me, it says “you might have to give up your child bearing years to work for us.” It may not be appealing for someone who is seeking work-life balance. But everyone has to make the right choice for themselves and their family.
I’m glad that companies are making the effort to give women options for work-life balance. But I’m not sure this is the way. Instead, companies should focus on giving flexibility and support to moms (and soon-to-be, or planning-to-be, moms) now.
In the short-term, this may seem like a great benefit – a way to have choice and not feel even more pressure, just as you’re starting your career. But is it? What about those who want to strive for a different balance? Or those who don’t want to freeze their eggs? It’s great that both companies are invested in giving their female employees more options. But are they doing anything to help support women collectively, so that an invasive elective surgery doesn’t become a barrier in career advancement among women at either company?
While many people think this is one step closer to gender equality in the workplace, I think it is actually one step away. By encouraging women to freeze their eggs, it is basically saying that women can’t have careers and be mothers. This fertility benefit gives women the opportunity for career advancement, without having to worry about family plans. However, it highlights the fact that women need to make a choice between home and work.
As a mother of four, I’ve chosen to put my family first and my career second. After my first child was born, I stepped down from the corporate ladder to focus on my family which was and always will be my first priority. Fast forward eleven years and I am fortunate to be working with companies that allow me the flexibility to keep my family as my number one priority and use the skills that I worked on in my life before kids. I think the bold move that Apple and Facebook took in offering to cover the costs of freezing eggs is a step in the right direction. This doesn’t mean that their female employees are being encouraged or asked to delay their family plans. At the end of the day, females will choose when they want to start their families, not companies.