Tech Companies Want To Help Female Employees Freeze Their Eggs, But What We Really Need Is Better Paternity Leave
Apple and Facebook are going to start helping female employees cover the cost of freezing their eggs — some employees, anyway; Apple’s benefits vary depending on your position — so that those women don’t have to choose between having a family and working through some of the prime years of their careers.
This is great news for women who want to handle their careers and personal lives one-at-a-time and feel the pressure to sacrifice and compromise their careers in order to have children before they’re no longer fertile. It provides those employees with another option, some more flexibility, and that’s fantastic. But I’m not going crazy over it, especially in Apple’s case, because whereas Facebook also provides male employees with up to 17 weeks of paternity leave, Apple provides women with up to 18 weeks and men with up to six weeks of parental leave.
There’s the obvious consideration of the fact that women are the employees who will actually be carrying their babies and, therefore, will benefit from having time off immediately before they’re due and immediately after, to prepare for birth and recover from it. But once you take that into consideration, then what? The implication behind Apple’s policy is that women are expected to be caregivers, not men, and that is the real problem for women who want both families and a career — not to mention men who would like to be very involved with childcare but are forced back to work.
And the problem isn’t even just the practical realities of managing childcare and childrearing. The problem is that employers view mothers as less capable employees than fathers, and whereas fathers are rewarded for having children with higher pay and rate of hire, women are penalized with the opposite. So we force men not to act as primary caregivers of children by keeping their paternity leave short or not providing it at all, thereby forcing women to act as primary caregivers by merit of our gender, then entrench those roles by making it easier for men to get jobs and more money after having children and harder for women.
So it’s great that tech companies are trying to help women stay in their careers, particularly in a field that struggles with diversity. Facebook is supporting the careers of both the women who work for them by providing them with assistance to freeze their eggs if they so desire, and supporting the careers of the wives and partners of their male employees by giving those men adequate paternity leave. But at Apple, so long as the company is giving men only a third of the parental leave that their female employees receive, it’s kind of more of the same attitude that says that eventually, women must be the primary caregivers for their children, not their male partners, and that has more big-picture consequences than infertility.
Give me a holler on Twitter.