Egg freezing: pro-equity breakthrough or anti-feminist 'devil’s deal'?

by Chloe Taylor22 Oct 2014
Apple and Facebook’s offer to freeze their female employees’ eggs is certainly controversial, but is it a worthwhile HR technique?

The perk is being introduced by the tech giants with the intention of attracting and retaining a higher number of women into the male-dominated industry.

The organisations are the first to offer the procedure as a method of postponing parenthood in order to develop one’s career, allowing staff to have both without having to choose which to sacrifice.

Both companies are willing to pay over $23,000 to freeze their employees’ eggs, plus more than $550 per year for their storage.

Professor James Hayton of the University of Warwick Business School said that because of the increasing demand for this service, the perk is likely to be a success.

“Unless the employers have totally misjudged women's views on this issue, they will be unlikely to lose, and could indeed attract more women by offering this perk,” Hayton told HC.

He also highlighted the importance of remembering that the perk is not intended as an ultimate solution.

“I don't think anyone realistically believes this is a solution to the underlying issue that society faces – how can we have both outcomes, parenthood and career without somehow compromising on one or the other,” he said.

“I find it difficult to criticise an employer for offering an additional option, however.”

Associate Professor Andrew Shelling, an expert on fertility at the University of Auckland, said he was concerned that women might perceive this as a guaranteed resolution.

“One of the issues for me is that this might sound like a very good idea for a young woman to consider, but it is literally putting all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “It’s not really egg “banking", but more like buying a lottery ticket to have a baby.”

Shelling referred to the perk as an “ethical issue,” emphasising that employers and clinics must take the responsibility to provide women with all of the information up front – including the reality that success rates are somewhere between 30 and 50%.

Hayton, however, supported the perk despite its inability to guarantee children.

“I can say with some confidence that if one faces the possibility of no child, then almost any positive probability of success will be seen as better than no chance at all,” he said, adding that critics “may wish to take into account the value of this opportunity for a mother (and father) who might otherwise have been unable to have a family at all.” 

Alongside the praise it has received, the perk is also facing a lot of criticism. In a recent opinion article for The New York Post, Mackenzie Dawson slammed the companies’ offering, calling it “a devil’s deal in the guise of a gender equity perk.”

She voiced the opinion of countless others as she suggested that the egg-freezing scheme was the companies “preying on women’s insecurities while selling them the idea that egg-freezing is somehow the great feminist panacea.”

Dawson said that “companies don’t really care about their employees’ fertility — they care about getting their employees to work,” and that Facebook employees’ notoriously long hours make “encouraging women to delay having babies [pointless] if you’re just going to make it hell for them in the office once they actually have them.”

Is it unethical for these organisations to launch perks which have no guarantees?

NBC reported that Facebook has already begun to pay for their employees to undergo the procedure, with Apple planning to start doing so early next year.
 

COMMENTS

  • by Michelle 22/10/2014 12:56:22 PM

    A totally outrageous proposition. These mega rich companies could be providing onsite professional child minding facilities and flexible work arrangements. Freezing eggs is no guarantee of producing a child some time down the track.

  • by Ann-Marie 22/10/2014 1:31:51 PM

    Interesting topic that I imagine would have a passionate opinion from many. While there are no guarantees that a frozen egg will produce a baby, a woman who has not met her partner in life while she is at the prime age to have have a baby, may see this as an opportunity at motherhood if she meets someone later.

    If this option is in place, it can not be seen as an opportunity to take away a woman's choice to become a parent at a younger age. There are many ways companies can provide flexibility. I will be interested to see others views on this.

  • by John 22/10/2014 1:39:34 PM

    What harm does it do if the offer is there?

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