No matter how much progress women make — in society, in the workforce — there is one story we all hear and fear: that having a baby is going to throw a huge wrench into your professional plans. For some women, that’s not true at all. For others, particularly ones who work in aggressively testosterone-fueled industries like corporate law or Wall Street, motherhood and career advancement are a tough road to go down.
Other countries have extensive maternity leaves (have a baby in Canada and you could get 52 paid weeks off). Others have free universal health care and other social services that make it more affordable to stay home and raise a child, if that’s what a woman wants to do. And then there is America.
According to NBC News, two of the country’s most innovative companies are looking for an innovative solution for women who feel they face a career/motherhood dilemma. Apple and Facebook are now going to pay for egg freezing for their employees. They’ll cover the initial procedure, which can cost $10,000 per round, as well as annual storage fees of about $500 to $1000.
This is unprecedented. No other large company in America does this. But this is also potentially creepy and inappropriate.
First, the non-creepy: Women have every right to do what they want with their bodies. And if what they want is to freeze their eggs, how amazing is it that the expensive procedure is now covered by their employer?
Then, the creepy: Many women want to freeze their eggs because they work for places that are not friendly to motherhood. And if these places start saying, “Hey, we will pay for you to not have a baby and freeze your eggs, but we will not pay for things like an in-house daycare center or extended maternity leave and we will not allow you to telecommute,” then egg-freezing doesn’t feel like such a free choice after all.
Granted, Apple and Facebook have very progressive family benefit packages. They offer perks like extended paid maternity leave and even subsidized laundry and a childcare reimbursement. So, for these two companies, egg freezing is just one more progressive policy in a place that, on paper, seems to also encourage employees to have children. But if another company decided to pay for eggs but to turn a blind eye to helping with day care or maternity leave, it could be interpreted as a not-so-subtle encouragement for their female employees to hold off on having a baby.
For now, no other companies seem to be jumping on the "We Will Pay for Your Egg Freezing" bandwagon. We can only wait and see if more businesses are encouraged by Apple and Facebook’s policy. And then we can only hope that it makes women feel like they have more choices, not less.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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