Is corporate egg freezing such a rotten idea?

A decade and change ago, I’d just had sex for the first time. A hotel room in New York with a local lad of moderate charm. Shortly after, he and I were on a train with an ad running along one carriage wall.

Money for eggs.

My companion gestured to it. Commented that it would solve all our problems. At the time it felt more romantic than red-flaggy.

Truth be told, I did consider it long enough to do a little research. As it turned out, the words harvesting and extraction prompted a lot of pelvic floor clenching and I quickly felt emboldened by my abilities to earn money elsewhere.

Squeamishness, however, isn’t solid grounds for policy opposition.

Tech giants Apple and Facebook have reportedly decided to cover a chunk of the exorbitant costs associated with their female employees freezing their eggs. The goal, allegedly, is to give women a chance to advance in their careers and to schedule their pregnancies to best suit their career goals. It’ll also, apparently, be a lure for “top talent” whose eggs might be running low(er).

We can, and of course should, ask ourselves why a company would offer such a “perk”.

In the late 1990s, I was in my late teens and working for a small company ran by an elderly husband and wife team. (Both were in a cult, but that’s another story). The duo had a very clear hiring policy: women under 25 or over 50, and no men, as they made for dreadful office workers.

Neither husband nor wife were partial to female employees taking time off to have babies. To look after sick babies. To raise bigger babies. It was, the husband explained to me quite candidly, just easier if they hired outside of the “fecundity window”. Fingers had been charred previously, he disclosed.

Sure, Apple and Facebook’s plans are open to be read similarly. Rather than making a workplace more family friendly, instead, the companies can be construed as putting the “problem” on ice. Quite literally. Interpreted as gussying up the norm of a workplace of non-parents with a lip service, progressive-sounding policy that really is about status-quo maintenance.

That said, there isn’t only one definition of “family friendly”, and while cynicism is good – is sane – so too is being gracious enough to be grateful for getting what we asked for.

When women are asked about their wants in a workplace, invariably choice is the catchcry. The choice to go on maternity leave. The choice to be able to return to their same job at their same pay rate. The choice to have somewhere clean to breastfeed. The choice of flexible hours. The choice, perhaps, to job-share.

When such choices are present in a workplace, an employer is inevitably lauded as progressive, as female-friendly, as family-friendly.

Surely, then, facilitating employees to have choice as related to managing their career and family is a positive thing.

I could understand concerns if employees were being involuntarily injected with hormones and then once a month forced into a pair of stirrups by some creepy bloke with a long straw. The script for that horror movie writes itself.

But this is not something being thrust upon women; rather, it’s just another option. Just as the likes of Google and Yahoo are championed for offering free food and gyms, shuttle buses and Hawaiian vacations, and how employers like mine allow me to, say, salary sacrifice a carpark, subsidising egg freezing is just another offering. Another choice. Another tool in a female employee’s belt to give her options as to how best to structure her life-course.

Reasons to be cheerful, I’d say.

I do of course have questions that I’d be asking if I were an employee interested in partaking. Just how will my employer be involved? Will this be handled through my health insurance like any other medical procedure or expense, or do I need to pop into HR and fill in an Egg Freeze form? What process do I need to go through should I decide to get them defrosted and implanted? Who informs my employer? What is the procedure if I want them disposed of?

Absolutely we should question motives, equally we should interrogate process and privacy too. But the policy seems like a pretty enlightened option to me.

October 15, 2014

© Lauren Rosewarne

Original Source: ABC The Drum