cascade of criticism to the news that Apple and Facebook
will pay female employees who want to freeze their eggs
strikes me as misdirected.
than seeing two enlightened companies offering a
valuable perk for female employees, critics warn that
the companies are trying to squeeze more work out of
women by making it easier for them to put motherhood on
ice. And techno-utopians, who think an algorithm can
solve all of lifeís problems, are thoughtlessly going
along with the plan, the critics say.
premise of companies offering such a benefit ó that
children are a project best taken up as one nears or
when one is in retirement ó is coldly
utilitarian," one editorial warned.
course, that isnít the premise of the egg-freezing
benefit. But painting such a bleak and extreme picture
appeals to the backlash against the tech industry.
lost is that women at these companies, real people
caught in the grips of the structural dilemma of work,
fertility and their lives, are the ones asking for the
given the industryís persistent gender problem, tech
firms should do everything, from examining recruitment
to rethinking benefits, to send a message that female
employees are valued.
benefit, in its symbolic value alone, sends that
Valley is in an arms race for talent and particularly
for women," said Cali Williams Yost, who consults
with companies about work-life issues. Egg freezing
"is something that some tech-savvy young women have
identified and have asked for. In an effort to attract
and retain this demographic, (the companies) are
responding," she said.
of the criticism of the egg-freezing benefit strikes me
as rooted either in a bygone era, or a wish for a
different world in which women didnít face a limited
fertility window that for many coincides with the time
they are building their careers.
am rooting for a different world, too, but one in which
workers have more flexibility. They can work and raise
kids with no parenthood penalty to their career. They
can, if they want, have children in their 20s, take time
to parent and then train for a career. Or they can put
off having children and launch their careers, then spend
time building a family and then restart their jobs.
all, we are living and working longer, yet our lives are
still structured so that many have to work hard the same
years they are having and raising children.
in this different world, employers would offer several
ways for workers to succeed. They would change harsh
corporate cultures that say only those available around
the clock are destined for advancement.
have not achieved that enlightened world yet. As we work
to get there, people have to cope with the choices in
front of them.
question about being ready to be a parent is intensely
personal, tied up with many issues, including whether a
woman has a partner or feels financially stable.
should help make that choice easier ó and some do.
They can offer maternity and paternity leave, child care
benefits and flexible work hours. Even better, they can
employ women who are parents to show others that it can
be done, and done well.
fact, tech may have a unique selling point for women.
gender wage gap is smaller in tech than some other
professions, according to a Harvard labor economist.
That may be because women in tech are more likely to be
in results-only environments, rewarded for the work they
do, rather than the face time they put in.
should be changing the structure of work and also
helping people in the current situation," said
Shelley Correll, professor of sociology and the director
of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at
and Appleís egg-freezing benefit may be utilized by
just a few. But it gives women another choice,
potentially a little more control of their fertility.
there a danger, some argue, that companies will subtly
ó or not so subtly ó encourage female workers to
delay their fertility?
the conversation: Go freeze your eggs and then we can
talk about a job here!
guess that could happen. But I am not that cynical.
besides, itís off-point.
of the choices women face are "second best,"
said Joan Williams, founding director of the Center for
WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings
some women, working in this second-best world, they
think their best choice is to freeze their eggs, and who
are we in this second best world to say it isnít,"
Williams said. "Companies should eliminate the
maternal bias, not the benefit."
donít expect a parade for Apple and Facebook.
come on. Letís celebrate that two local firms are
breaking ground by giving female employees another
option for navigating one of lifeís toughest
could help until the better world shows up.