As you can imagine, Facebook and Google’s announcement they’d pay for the freezing of eggs of female staff (and the partners of male staff) has drawn both advocates and critics. Some see it as a valuable perk and an extension of reproductive rights for an expensive process. We at Female Breadwinners see this as ‘corporate creep’. As Harriet Minter succinctly put it in The Guardian: ‘Rather than saying, “have your children in your own time and we’ll support you with well-paid parental leave and subsidised childcare”, they’re saying, “work really hard through your most fertile years and then when you may not be able to have kids anymore, you can give it a shot with the eggs we froze for you as a perk”.
Surely, these firms would be better off creating a culture where people don’t have to chose between family and a career at the same time. The unspoken threat is: ‘Don’t say we didn’t offer to support you get to the top; it’s full steam ahead or a family’. Plus what happens to the women who opt to freeze? Their chances of success are slim – only 2000 babies have been born this way; only 20 in the UK. Plus, we suspect women may feel a psychological pressure to carry on working, or stay in a bad situation with their employer, rather than starting their family simply because they have eggs in store.
The fact that this ‘answer to women’s woes’ comes from the technology sector is particularly rich. It’s an industry where women have less than a 15% chance of reaching a senior position – about the same chance of a successful pregnancy for a 40 year old who’s frozen her eggs. From our point of view, while early 20’s is the ideal time to freeze eggs, most 20-somethings are optimistic they will find the right partner, have kids and live happily ever after in their ideal order – egg-freezing seems implausible and pessimistic. Interestingly, there may be another seedier and simpler motivation why this ’solution’ has come out of Silicon Valley as described by one insider in Newsday: ‘Something about this policy feels like Silicon Valley men plotting to get the women off their backs about marriage, so they can go back to their video games.”