Since ages, capitalism has re-structured families and societies that we live in. The recent decision by Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Apple giving up to $20,000 in benefits to help employees pay for infertility treatments, sperm donors and even to freeze their eggs is one more addition to this capitalist agenda. It says,
Sit back, relax..!!! Let capitalism plan your baby for you..!!!
Facebook has started offering to reimburse workers for up to $20,000 worth of reproductive-related costs, over the course of employment. Apple’s similar perks will start next year.
On the surface it looks right. For ages, the patriarchal society has been unkind to women, in terms of their careers, and women have had to do away with lucrative careers to meet the societal demands of starting a family. Moreover, the move seems to potentially address the conflicts between the biological clock and the clockwork of women’s careers. Also the move seems to give women ‘reproductive autonomy’ letting them decide on when and how to start families, which traditionally have been controlled by men and the society. Now women, after having ‘established’ their careers can focus on having families in later stage.
But is it all that good and ideal? A few arguments outlined below might dare to prove otherwise.
- Egg freezing actually leads to many medical complications, which is often not the focus, when discussing the above topic. Not all eggs turn out to be babies. The process of egg retrieval involves weeks of self-delivered hormone injections to hyper-stimulate your ovaries, which can lead to nausea, bloating and discomfort, not to mention blood clots, organ failure, and hospitalization in rare cases. A fertility industry eager to enhance its market share is seen pushing for its services without comprehensive assessment of the potential risks to the health of women and children.
- Further it perpetuates the wrong understanding of age (only) as an essential factor for fertility.
- Okay let’s put aside the medical risks. One of the biggest attacks of egg freezing is on the fight towards more family friendly work spaces. The companies, in their quest to squeeze more work out of women, bring this move. For them, the essential understanding is that ‘family’ is deterrent to productivity at work place.
- It also essentially tells women that to succeed in today’s corporate world, we should stay away from having families. Such a move, rather than encouraging women to join the workforce might also have the potential to completely deterring them away from taking up jobs as such a move creates a ‘success v/s family life’ situation for women.
- Moreover, the egg freezing option, soon to become a worldwide reality is still a far away reality for most of the middle class and lower class working women. Therefore it actually furthers the so called ‘reproductive autonomy’ for a few, thereby increasing the class barriers in the labour market today.
- Many argue that the egg freezing option is voluntary, so women still have the option to start families at their will. But women are increasingly seen to be coerced to undertake the egg freezing move, as opting out of it would also mean, leaving work for a few months or a year, which have impacts on their promotions and pay package.
Therefore, companies like facebook and Apple rather should focus on making their workspaces more family friendly. Strong maternity benefits, paid leaves, work at home possibilities, bringing kids to work etc. should rather be the focus, which could in real terms challenge the existing structural norms of work and can be an ideal step. Long maternity leaves should not impact on women’s career growth path or promotion. Moreover, such steps would not discriminate among women based on their pay package and would go a long way in attracting women into the workforce, thereby also decreasing the gender gap in the workforce.
Opinions expressed here are personal.