I first saw this news tip posted in a secret Facebook group that I am a member of. The group is comprised of about 500 women from all over the country and is a “safe place” to share and discuss articles, op-eds, and news stories pertaining to women’s issues. I was invited by a sorority sister of mine, a girl whom I always looked up to, and one who has very different political beliefs than I do. I was, quite honestly, surprised and honored to be invited to such a group of educated and talented young women. Not to mention, these stories and discussions oftentimes provide me with inspiration for a column. This, obviously, is one of those instances.
After the initial story was posted in the group about an hour prior to this article being published, my jaw dropped. Facebook and Apple are doing WHAT? They’re paying for female employees to freeze their own eggs? How weird. How strange. How…fucked up. While many women in this (incredibly fascinating) group commented on the post singing the praises of Facebook and Apple, something about it irked me. To me, this seems to be the opposite of a progressive, equal workspace. Sure, Apple and Facebook are providing a service to their female employees — a service that, quite honestly, is unheard of when it comes to employee benefits — but at what cost?
Let’s break it down.
Contrary to popular belief, the chances of a woman having a healthy, viable pregnancy begin going down at 27, not 35. The cost of freezing one’s eggs has an upfront fee of about $10,000 depending on your doctor and place of residency. Additionally, there is a “maintenance” cost of $1,000 a year to ensure that your eggs are properly cared for. So, let’s say that I, a 24-year-old woman, work for Facebook and decide to freeze my eggs because I’m not currently seeing anyone and, hey, it’s free. But is it really? Is it really free? Is this a no strings attached back up plan? Or is this a silent understanding that should I, said Facebook employee, go through with this procedure, that I am essentially signing an invisible “I will not have children for at least 15-20 years” contract. Equally, will I be at a disadvantage should I decide not to go through with this very “generous” offer? Personally, it seems like the latter two options.
Obviously, companies cannot discriminate on race, sex, or religion when hiring, but it’s no secret that women are discouraged from asking about maternity leave or childcare policies when interviewing for a position. Such a question puts you on the “mommy path” — and employers don’t want that. They want people who are in it for the long haul, who won’t miss three months of work at a time, who won’t leave at 3pm on a Wednesday because their child has a doctor’s appointment. Hell, I’ve even heard of women taking off their wedding ring before interviewing for a job, because as the saying goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage…and then comes getting passed over for the promotion. Unfortunately, even if we take off our rings and don’t bring up the subject of children, we are still at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job, as a study at Yale University found that not only are male candidates favored to female candidates, but that on average, even when the candidates are identical on paper, save for the name and gender, the male candidates are offered a salary of $4,000 more a year. And why is that? Because women have children. We leave the workforce. We are seen as flighty, unpredictable, and a threat to stability.
Facebook and Apple, however, found a clever way around that. If they provide the “option” for (read: coerce) female employees to freeze their eggs, then they will no longer be a threat to the company. They will no longer leave. They will work now and maybe have kids later. Everybody wins, right?
When I decide to have children is my decision and at no point in that decision making should my employer come to mind. A company getting financially involved in my reproductive system/rights is wrong. Think I’m being overdramatic? If the employer is paying for the initial process and the “maintenance” fee, then who really owns those eggs? Is it me? Or is it my employer? When the time comes, is it my decision to have children? Or is it my employer’s? It’s too much of a grey area — a grey area that I want no part of.
They say keep the government out of our reproductive system. Well, I say keep your money out of it, too..