Working Moms Are Screwed if Companies Think Freezing Our Eggs Is the Answer

egg freezing

It's being hailed as a win for women. Tech giants Facebook and Apple are now offering egg freezing as an employer-covered employee benefit, making them the first major employers in America to offer the service for non-medical reasons. Yay! A chance for women to have their career cake and take a bite out of motherhood too! What's not to love?

Well, for starters, how about the very fact that women are forced to delay motherhood in order to get a solid footing in the work world because of backward policies that lag behind most other industrialized nations?

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According to statistics from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the US Family Medical Leave Act -- the umbrella under which maternity coverage falls -- is only applicable to 60 percent of our work force. Then that 60 percent gets broken down even further. Only one quarter of US employers offer fully paid maternity leave (for any length of time), and one-fifth of US companies offer absolutely no leave ... paid or unpaid.

Of 21 industrialized nations reviewed by the Center for Economic Policy Research, the US is one of only two that guarantee mothers NO paid time off after birth (Australia is the other). 

And of course, women still face a 22 percent gender wage gap. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, female full-time workers made only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2013. Meanwhile, childcare costs in America have nearly doubled since the late 1990s (even when you take inflation into account), and in every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant in a child care center are higher than the average amount that families spent on food. Is it any wonder the overwhelming burden of paying for childcare alone drives women out of the workforce, creating the very issues of delayed career that this egg-freezing policy is being hailed for addressing?

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And yet, instead of addressing these critical issues, we're celebrating the fact that companies are now paying for women to go through a painful procedure so they can work harder and delay their motherhood dreams even longer?

To that point, it also must be noted that egg freezing is not easy on a woman. It requires at least a week of daily injections of fertility drugs that cause your hormones to go haywire, plus going under sedation (always risky) for a harvesting process. Afterward, there are all the side effects that come with having had a surgery -- pain, limitations on exercise, etc. That's just one cycle. Typically doctors will call for multiple cycles in order to get "enough" eggs to ensure they have enough viable candidates for IVF down the road.

The financial burden may be covered by an employer, but the emotional and physical ones lay heavy on a woman. And we're supposed to cheer that this will ensure women aren't driven off the career path by motherhood?

When women could simply be given better job security via parental leave policies that are akin to the rest of the industrialized world? When our nation could treat childcare like it is treated in most of Europe, where it's provided through publicly funded programs, often free of charge?

If major corporations want to really provide for their female employees, they could guarantee paid maternity leave for mothers -- a move that studies show is beneficial not just to moms but to employers and to the nation as a whole as moms who have paid maternity leave and a job to return to are both less likely to end up on public assistance and more likely to return to the workplace.

If they really want to provide for female employees, they could use the sort of monies they'd put into an egg-freezing plan and create subsidies for childcare.

If they really want to provide for female employees, they could provide sick days to the 38 percent of private sector workers who have none, forcing many of the 80 percent of moms who take time off every year to care for their sick child to go without pay.

One third of all parents in America with a child under 6 currently fear losing their jobs if they take even one day off to care for a sick child. If they really want to provide for female employees, companies could enhance workplace flexibility, taking advantage of technologies that allow the American worker to work from home, especially on days when a child is sick.

On the other hand, if a corporation really wants to show its female employees that they're valued, they can end the practice of constantly changing schedules, providing working mothers with consistent schedules around which they can plan for childcare.

It's time America -- and American employers -- stop treating motherhood and mothers like a barnacle on the underside of a ship to be scraped off and dealt with via ineffective and often callous methods. It's time motherhood is recognized as what it is: the creation of our next generation of Americans and American workers.

Even child-free-by-choice CEOs start out as children with mothers who gave them a start in life. Shouldn't that start be the best one we can possibly give? Not one that has to be delayed because it's inconvenient to the rest of the world?

What do you think employers should be providing? Egg freezing? Daycare? What?

 

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