By Aashna Sheth
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
The Silicon Valley, with the advent of new age companies, which encompass state of the art work places, up-to-date technology and products that have revolutionized the world also include unparalleled employee benefit schemes. Their employee driven programs ensure that employees remain productive as the companies’ Human Resources (HR) departments aim to find different methods to satisfy and retain their staff. The importance of these perks has been shed light upon more recently with Apple and Facebook’s latest employee benefit scheme, the introduction of an egg-freezing program for their women employees. This policy has sparked a vociferous debate surrounding the concept of egg freezing and has brought to the forefront the conflict between a career and motherhood.
Facebook and Apple have stated that they will provide their employees with $20000 to cover the costs of the egg freezing treatment, which allows women to surgically preserve their eggs until they’re ready to have a child. Egg freezing is still regarded as a considerably novel concept. Ever since the label ‘experimental’ was removed from this procedure, its popularity has increased. Although the number of women who opt for this treatment might be a few, it leaves open the possibility of starting a family. Women are usually told to freeze their eggs when they are most fertile, in their 20s or early 30s so that there is a higher probability of a successful pregnancy later on. Yet, the question we need to ask is a crucial one; what are the implications of the introduction of such a scheme
By introducing schemes such as these, companies are able to attract and retain more female employees and increase their diversity in a field, which is dominated by men. This forward thinking policy provides women with an opportunity to delay pregnancy thereby allowing them to successfully establish themselves in their careers. It tackles the ever-lasting conflict between the biological clock and professional life indicating that women do not have to choose one over the other. More so, it also attempts to show the importance of women in the professional field indicating that they do not have to make a sacrifice during their peak childbearing years. Some journalists have referred to this process as ‘the equalizer’. Several women have welcomed this possibility as they aim to confront one phase of their life at a time. After establishing themselves professionally they might choose to start a family and the ‘frozen eggs’ treatment might allow them to achieve both goals.
Yet, this solution might not be all encompassing. Firstly, the treatment costs between $7000 and $12000 for each round, and to collect an adequate number of eggs a woman needs to go through two rounds. Moreover, the costs of storage and drugs are an additional $1000 to $3000. Thus, the money provided by the companies might not cover all costs. Secondly, women have to attend counseling sessions before the procedure where all the pros and cons are weighed. There’s no guarantee that frozen eggs will result in a successful pregnancy; the number of live births recorded by this procedure is not radical. Thus, it is extremely essential that women don’t fall under the misconception that freezing eggs will guarantee a baby in the future.
While it can invariably be argued that the possibility of egg freezing will help a woman dive in to her career and enjoy her professional life without interruptions, the situation cannot be looked at only from one perspective. It can also be argued that by introducing such policies these companies are attaching importance solely to professional life while having a family takes a backseat. Some sociologists also believe that employees in tech companies work extremely long hours and often have no time for a personal life, reducing the possibilities of finding a partner thereby forcing them to resort to different fertility treatments to keep open the likelihood of starting a family.
But the question we need to ask is is it possible to achieve personal and professional goals simultaneously? Facebook provides its employees with 16 weeks paid maternity leave and an additional $4000 for the baby (which the couple can spend in any which way they want). These perks ease the stress of managing a professional life and having a child. Google offers on site day care programs and flexible working hours, which act as a boon to new mothers as well. Although they might not be able to establish themselves in the same way as those who do not have a family, they attempt strike a balance between the two.
Some professionals look at freezing eggs as a boon, as an opportunity, which helps them kill two birds with one stone. At a time when the importance of women in the professional arena is emerging, this policy can actually help them ‘achieve it all’. Although we can control our choices on marriage, our professional lives and our careers, biology remains constant; as Lord Robert Winston (a fertility specialist) opines, “It is important to remember that all our best efforts to cheat nature are no match for the overwhelming power of biology itself”. What’s essential is that we strike a balance between the two, at the right place and at the right time.
 How Women Are Freezing The Biological Clock < http://www.newsweek.com/2014/08/15/how-women-are-freezing-biological-clock-263339.html> (Date Accessed: October 18, 2014)
Aashna Sheth is a 2nd year law student at Government Law College in Mumbai. She believes that the best form of expression is writing. She is an avid reader and deems it essential to keep abreast with recent developments. Hoping to become a successful lawyer some day, she also plays the piano and speaks fluent French. She can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org.