In 2014, Apple and Facebook announced that they would provide up to $20,000 for female employees to freeze their eggs as an employment benefit. These announcements raised mixed reviews. Some applauded the decision because they believe that egg freezing may offer to women more control over their reproductive choices. Others argued that the new benefit sends the wrong message to women and that encouraging good parenting by giving better parental leave and child care policies would be more beneficial to families. Others were concerned that this “benefit” applies only to professional or managerial-class women, but may not be helpful to women in working class jobs.
The differing initial responses only begin to demonstrate how complex the decision to offer egg freezing as an employment benefit is and should be. Employers’ subsidies of egg freezing have broad social implications. Subsidies raise issues about the distribution of benefits to different classes of employees and which types of benefits are better for women, men, and families of diverse classes. On an even larger scale, studying egg freezing subsidies provides a lens into the “brave new world” of the modern corporation and the way it shapes society through workplace norms and expectations. Much of contemporary corporate America reinforces a gendered structure of society and the family that links masculinity to the breadwinner ideal. While egg freezing may be an attempt to attract women to high-level jobs, it does not break down these gendered structures. In fact, it reinforces the masculine worker ideal by encouraging all-consuming loyalty and work hours from its management employees and sending the message to women and men that in order to succeed they must treat work as their primary obligation and arrange their personal and family responsibilities around work even to the extent of changing their own biology.
This article attempts to anticipate the issues that egg freezing as an employment benefit will raise for society, employees, and employers. It concludes that rather than using egg freezing or other similar measures to attract female management employees, workplaces should be transformed to respect women, men, family, and personal values. The goal should not be to encourage employees to postpone childbearing by engaging in extraordinary measures to change their hormones but to recognize that all human beings have needs outside of the workplace.
20 Em. Rts. & Emp. Pol'y J. 331 (2016).
McGinley, Ann C., "Subsidized Egg Freezing in Employment: Autonomy, Coercion, or Discrimination?" (2016). Scholarly Works. 1027.