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IT Giants Apple and Facebook announced that they will pay for their female employees to freeze their eggs. On the face of it, this seems like a wonderful new choice. But is it, really?
Imagine that you are in your mid-thirties, a mid-level executive in an interesting job, your career poised at a crucial juncture. Married or single. If you are a male executive, your upward trajectory is a certainty. You will marry (if not already), have kids, and your career has no blips, for sure.
But if you are a female executive with no kids, the biological clock has been ticking away. This is because although the average number of usable eggs in a fourteen to sixteen girl is approximately 6,00,000, by the age of thirty these are reduced to 12%, and to about 3% by the age of forty. This reduces the chances of a conception as you grow older.
So, Facebook and Apple have offered the next best option. Postpone conception by freezing your eggs. The ovaries are first stimulated with injections to produce more eggs. Then, under anaesthesia, and ultrasound guidance, eggs are withdrawn, through a needle inserted in the vagina. The presence of these eggs is confirmed under the microscope, and then they are frozen by a process called vitrification. When a woman decides that she wants to have a baby, the eggs are unfrozen, fertilized with the partner’s sperm and then are transplanted into her womb.
The risks involved in the procedure of stimulating the ovary and the process of removal, the long term effects of freezing (on the quality of the egg), the costs, and success-rate of this procedure are all subjects of an article on fertility. But, are worth knowing, especially because they are drowned out in the praise of fertility procedures.
What is also of interest is the subtle implication to women employees regarding the choices they will have to make and the not-so-subtle warning to women who might want to defy this offered ‘choice’.
To promote a work-friendly culture, employers provide many facilities. From on-site dry-cleaning services to gyms, arrangements for sleeping at the work-site to cafeterias with multinational cuisines, the emphasis is on asking for (and getting) 200% from the employees. The personal life of employees and their ‘me-time’ is controlled by giving them “so much” at the workplace that few should have a reason to leave this milieu of productivity and go home.
(Oh, I would love to be a fly on the wall in the board meeting that discusses “101 ways to keep your employees’ noses to the grindstone after five pm, and possibly, through the night.”)
Enter the female employee – career conscious, ambitious, and anxious to prove herself. But, she comes with a tick-tock, a biological one – which, alas, is ultimately deleterious to the balance sheet.
You need a new carrot, when you show the stick. So, what do you do? Hey, science to the rescue! Disguise the stick as the carrot; a giant, juicy one.
“Look, dear lady…er… of course we understand…we all feel the need to have a baby. Believe it or not, the wife and I have a few of them back home, (at least the last time I looked they were still there). But, ummm, we have this new policy, like an insurance policy that you can take.”
“Freeze the eggs that you may need and continue working. It is just a day-care procedure, ya’know.( You can get a hospital discharge and come to work that very day)… unfreeze them at leisure when you are less busy and have more resources at your disposal,( some years down the line). So, offspring with the man of your choice at the time of your choice. It is all about Freedom of Choice. All expenses paid, of course!”
“So, you might wanna freeze those eggs quickly and get that icky-bit out of the way. And, of course, if you still want to not commit to our work-culture and jeopardize your position with us, go ahead and have that baby now. You know where you will stand in the race to the top.”
Pic credit: Businesswoman on a ladder via Shutterstock
I am Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar. I love reading, meeting people, listening to music, watching plays,
Egg freezing is an expensive procedure and women who are in need of the procedure would benefit if the company they work for covers the cost in their medical. In an era when companies are trying to cut costs in employee benefits by removing dental and medical the news of a procedure being covered in your medical benefits is good news. I think it is false hype and attention grabbing that the media is doing. Read http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meimei-fox/apple-facebook-cover-egg-_b_6015962.html
I am glad you brought that up!
Offering treatment for IVF for infertility or ovum freezing as part of a medical treatment (the latter for women undergoing treatment for cancers) is different from dental treatment. The risks involved in undergoing this procedure are underlined in this article.
Concerns about the effects of long term freezing are raised as well, in what is an untested process.The woman singing its praises on Huffington went on to have a normal pregnancy, without using the egg frozen by her. Imagine if at the age of 45 or 50 years , she wished to have a baby and the de-frozen egg was not successful in doing so.
Commendable as it is that Apple and Facebook are offering this treatment, ultimately are they mom-friendly? Do they offer work-from-home and part-time options? Marissa Mayers of Yahoo was one of the first to cancel these when she took over.
By putting this on the platter of offerings, they are sending the wrong message about the compatibility of motherhood and career.
Facebook and Apple are the ones that are including the benefit in their medical not Yahoo. Every technology has its ill effects starting from IVF and freezing sperms or eggs but it should be upto the patient and the doctor to decide. The company is just offering to pay through their overall insurance plan incase such a woman needs treatment. There have been successful cases using the treatment too. It is not a treatment to be taken lightly but it is indeed beneficial for a lot of patients or couples battling infertility or other major illnesses like cancer and need to put off child rearing for a bit. It should and is always done by a learned medical professional. Also not comparing dental and infertility treatment but in the US a lot of companies shy away from providing medical coverage to their employees and insurance is ‘very important’ to receive any treatment in the US.
Facebook and Apple already offer to pay for costs for infertility treatment( which IS GREAT!). Ovum freezing in isolation is a new package.
“There is no data, for or against, that shows that vitrified eggs can be stored for years at a time, then successfully thawed, fertilized and produce a healthy normal offspring.” (Should We Take this Risk?)
“Arizona Center for Fertility Studies definitely recommends and does egg vitrification for fertility preservation in young cancer patients; but as far as using it for delaying childbearing in younger women, these women need to proceed with caution and at their own risk; that with future thawing, their eggs may not be usable.” (This comes from a centre with High rates of success for IVF)
Is this what we want as insurance for Career-Now-Baby-Making-Later? Postponing child rearing may not be the choice that it is made out to be!
Its media hype and in this materialistic world good business for fertility units and cream recruitment for IT . Sucess rate at age of 40 and above is ??.
I agree. So much of what we are offered is inflated vis-a-vis the importance and use.
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