Facebook, Apple need to Initiate Tech Cultural Change, not Egg-Freezing

by Matt Klassen on October 21, 2014

For years the tech industry has offered its employees cushy perks and high salaries in an effort not only to attract top talent, but to help assuage the burden of sacrificing one’s personal life that often comes with these time-munching, intellectually taxing jobs. But beyond basketball hoops and beanbag chairs in the workplace, Facebook and Apple have taken these perks in a different direction, offering up to $20,000 for infertility treatments, sperm donors and even to freeze women’s eggs.

The goal of such a project is simple: to attract top female engineering talent to an industry that is currently dominated by men, offering women the chance to advance their career, to make a lot of money, and put off the prospect of motherhood indefinitely, a silver-tongued recruitment tactic that asks women to “devote key childbearing years to building careers,” while promising that those dreams of motherhood will still be there when they’re done.

But while some are heralding Apple and Facebook’s newest perk as a significant step in the feminist movement, a “life-changing” benefit that solves “the work-life balance problem,” this move underscores not a newfound freedom for women, but the unfortunate enslavement of us all, as although Apple is willing to pay for women to save their eggs the cost is steep, as critics argue that it’s nothing but “a ploy to entice women to sell their souls to their employer.”

There’s no question that more and more women are waiting longer and longer to embark on the adventure of motherhood, as the number of women who have had their first child in their early 40s has doubled in the past two decades. In a culture simultaneously driven by the laudable desire for gender equality and the less-than-laudable desire for businesses to make money at all costs, many women have bought into the same lie perpetrated upon men for years, that any good citizen needs to establish a career first, anything less is, well, less.

It’s this concomitant cultural drive that has fuelled Apple’s recent decision to fund egg-freezing procedures that may or may not be medically necessary, couching its recruitment tactic in language of advancing women’s rights, liberation, and equality.

“Anything that gives women more control over the timing of fertility is going to be helpful to professional women,” said Shelley Correll, a sociology professor and director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. “It potentially addresses the conflicts between the biological clock and the clockwork of women’s careers: The time that’s most important in work, for getting your career established, often coincides with normal fertility time for women. This can potentially help resolve that by pushing women’s fertility into the future.”

The problem, as I see it, is that it’s all a lie. Not that Apple or Facebook are lying about paying $20,000 for freezing one’s eggs, but that this promise comes as part of a larger lie, that people have to dedicate their best years to their corporate overlords, sacrificing everything for what, in most cases, turns out to be only temporary financial security and career advancement anyways. As The Globe and Mail’s Emma Woolley writes, “All these benefits do is underscore our toxic ‘overwork until we die’ culture – one in which technology companies want people to sacrifice their youth and prime parenting years for profit.”

Beyond that, there’s also the lie of guaranteed motherhood down the road, as while fertility treatments have advanced significantly, it still comes with significant risk and a high chance of disappointment.

All this to say, if Apple truly wanted to attract top talent, male or female, what they need to start doing is start changing the American work culture, allowing their employees to take generously paid maternity or paternity, encouraging ample vacations and rest times, and embracing the importance of family…or at least a personal life.

To me this entire story speaks to Apple’s (and much of the tech industry) general disregard for human life. While for years we’ve seen the company ignore the egregious violations committed along its supply line, this latest promise to freeze women’s eggs is hollow succour indeed, one that demands workers deposit their soul in the capitalist machine at one end while promising that what gets spit out the other end will still be as good.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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