Can a woman have it all? It’s rarely a question we ask men, probably because it doesn’t seem like they have to choose between career and family. For women though, things get tricky because, despite all of the great strides in the feminist movement, when it’s time to have children, “leaning out” seems almost inevitable. Pregnancy takes its toll, maternity leave is often viewed as “time off,” and once your child is born, he or she absolutely comes first.
Women know this. They can feel it. Despite all of the politically-correct corporate conversation that reassures women that their jobs are safe, the choice to have a family inevitably shifts their career trajectory. Our country’s lack of maternity leave benefits means that many new mothers don’t have a choice about whether or not to go back to work. The message women can’t help but hear is: Sure, you can have a family, but your career might take a hit.
So for successful, career-minded women, the choice to have a family might feel like a liability. Here you are, in your 30s, finally hitting your stride at work. Of course, your biological clock is ticking. The time to start a family is right now. But what if you still haven’t met the right partner? What if you’re just not ready for kids? Maybe you and your spouse are just really busy with your careers and don’t have it in you to have a baby right now. While your husband might have time to wait though, biologically, you don’t.
That’s why I think it’s so cool that two tech giants — Facebook and Apple — have decided to cover the costs for female employees to have their eggs frozen, if that’s what they choose. With fertility treatments typically costing over $10,000, this is a huge gift to those women who want to put the mummy thing on hold. It means they can wait until they’re ready to start a family, not feel pressured into it by their own biology. And for those who would like to focus their time and energy on their careers, in what’s a very young industry, it allows them to keep their eye on the ball. (Of course, it’s not entirely clear if freezing your eggs is as viable as freezing fertilized embryos, but it’s still a solid insurance policy.)
Is this a way for tech companies to recruit more females into their male-dominated businesses? Probably. Is it a perk that will help retain their top female employees, and avoid losing them to either competitors or mommyhood? Yep. But who cares? Even if the corporations intentions aren’t entirely altruistic, it’s a huge bonus for the women who work there!
Some critics feel that maybe these companies are trying to force women to put career ahead of a family. First of all, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, m’kay? Second of all, they can’t force an employee to do anything. If she wants a child right now, she’ll move heaven and earth to try to make that happen. Paying to have her eggs frozen will only postpone the baby-making if she wants to postpone the baby-making.
What these companies are giving their female employees is a choice. A choice. It allows them to wait for the right partner or the right time, both emotionally and financially. Bravo to Facebook and Apple for recognizing that need and filling that need. How very lucky for these smart women in tech, who want to have more control over their lives, and not be ruled by biology.
Who knows if women really can have it all, but at the very least, they can have options.