Freezing Out Our Mothers

Nevertheless, fertility clinics across the United States quickly embraced the removal of the “experimental” designation to suggest that egg freezing was now safe for mothers wishing to save their own eggs for later in life. High-profile companies like Facebook announced that they would support egg freezing for their female personnel in order to retain valued employees. It is not uncommon for women in their mid-thirties and beyond to abandon their careers to have a family. In addition, having younger women save their eggs may prevent extensive costs associated with fertility treatment later in their lives and careers.

On first glance, it's probably pretty easy to think that this is a wonderful way to support women thriving in the workplace. When Richard Branson was asked about Facebook's new policy he responded:

“How can anybody criticize [Facebook] . . . for doing that? . . . It’s the woman’s choice. If they want to carry on working, they can carry on working. If they haven’t managed to find the man of their dreams by 35–36–37–38, freeze the eggs—it makes sense the earlier you can freeze them the better . . . We at Virgin want to steal the idea and give it to our women.”

I feel like in promoting the service, Branson does a terrific job of explaining why this is a completely backwards way to support women in the workplace. Marcia Inhorn, one of the researchers on the study added:

Employers may come to expect women to postpone childbearing through egg freezing. Women may be pushed into a burdensome and costly medical procedure that cannot provide guaranteed future fertility outcomes. Also, an increased age difference between mothers and their children may lead to poorer, less energetic parenting, as well as an increased likelihood that children will lose their mothers early on. Moreover, promoting egg freezing as a quick-fix technological solution does not solve the unfavorable employment policies that cause women to lean out of their careers . . . My female graduate students often ask me for advice on how to become a successful professor, while also having kids. I usually tell them to look for a supportive partner who has a nontraditional, flexible career path.

It is entirely unclear that this is will like be good for families in the long run. The reality is that we need to support women being women, not women acting more like "idealized" men. Families are incredibly important, not just for having children, but for the individuals in the relationship themselves. The correct thing to do is for companies to offer realistic ways for women and men to have the opportunities to meet awesome people, develop healthy relationships and enjoy a rich personal life along with their professional career.

Sure, if you want to offer egg freezing support for women along with adoption services and significant paternal leave, then you truly are promoting choice.

Frozen eggs give hope to the swelling ranks of professional women who do not have time to have a baby. When a woman joins a firm after earning her M.B.A. or J.D., she has to show that she has “the right stuff,” which often means grueling sixty-hour workweeks and frequent travel. The traditional child-bearing years (the late twenties and early thirties) clash with the major career-building years. Men do not share this “baby penalty” at work.

The last sentence really sums up sexism in our culture. Why do men not share this penalty? If a man starts a family in his 30s, isn't it absurdly important that he support his wife during these years? The reality is men do in fact share the exact same "baby penalty" but that these companies flat expect that men will not give two thoughts to supporting his family in any way beyond financially. In other words, the researcher's concern has completely come true for men.

"Grueling sixty-hour workweeks" are good for exactly nobody. The firm is getting lower quality work, the clients are getting substandard support and the person is not living a balanced life and absolutely everything in their world will suffer. 

These very industries are killing themselves. We know that statistically children are more successful who come from solid family units, and boys and girls benefit strongly from having both parents be role models of successful habits. If these companies hope to have strong talent to hire for centuries to come, one of the most important factors is ensuring that people in their 20-30s are supported in having strong relationships today, not tomorrow.