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UCC Express W/C 27th Oct - Apple and Eggs

There has been a story doing the rounds recently, about a decision by Apple and Facebook to offer female employees the opportunity to freeze their eggs. The advantage portrayed to these employees is twofold. Firstly and crucially, it will be free of charge, or more accurately, these companies want to pay for it. The second advantage and the actual reason for such a charitable act? Your ascent of the corporate ladder within these companies, as a female, will become more achievable when maternity leave doesn’t have to be catered for. On first looking, this of course seems like a fantastic idea. More choice for people is always a good thing. However, on reflection, I personally believe it to be an awful idea, which amongst other negative consequences, breeds more inequality, which one can only assume is the exact opposite of it’s intention.

It should firstly be pointed out that both these companies are known to offer various progressive perks to cater for the family live’s of their employees, or at least that of their higher management within America and Europe. Judging this “perk” on it’s own merits, however, I worry about the precedent being set both within and outside of the walls of these companies. Firstly and most crucially, I believe that those that see this as an advancement of women and equality in the workplace are possibly misguided. People are not seeing the hidden message behind the implementation of this “perk”. By implying that women can freeze their eggs in order to climb the corporate ladder, one can only derive that an ascent of the same ladder becomes unattainable in the absence of a woman’s eggs being frozen. Simply put, if you plan on having children while you work in higher management with these companies, well then, promotion is not really for you, or at least if you’re a woman.

Of course it has been pointed out that this is simply a choice that Facebook and Apple are offering, and that it is not compulsory. But something does not need a compulsory status to be intrinsically unequal. And unequal this is. As the contemporary corporate world attempts to come to grips with the reasonable demands for women to be treated equally within the workplace, a situation like this can be only seen as regression. Again, yes it may be optional, but can anyone imagine a situation whereby a woman who has decided to freeze her eggs won’t be at an advantage over a woman who hasn’t, when it comes to a promotion opportunity? Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I don’t think so. So rather than offering a choice to advance the equality of opportunity across both sexes, this “perk” blatantly problematises motherhood and pregnancy and whether deliberately or inadvertently, it discourages couples and women from starting a family on their terms, and encourages them to do it on Facebook’s and Apple’s terms.

There is a second side to this story that makes me very uneasy also. It deeply troubles me that under the guise of a work “perk”, a corporation can make such an invasion into the personal choices and private life of not only their female employees, but of couples, and even prospective grandparents and wider families, by setting the terms upon which promotion is achieved. Will this be a trend that is set into the future? Where does this all end? I find it puzzling that in a society which does not tolerate similar invasions by the state, which ultimately works for the welfare of the citizen, that such an invasion by private companies, which work only for shareholders, has not created more of an outcry. 

And so I have a mad proposal for Facebook, Apple and any other companies daft enough to think of this proposal as progressive. Rather than discouraging women and couples to have children and pave their own life path, why not embrace motherhood, fatherhood and the most natural, most beautiful and most exciting aspect of life, the giving of it? Why make your company’s goals and profits the centre of people’s lives? Why not be really progressive and realise that parenting can be done by men also? Mothers have been giving life long before iPads and pokes were words of fame, and fathers will continue to want to share the workload that comes with the joy of parenthood long after you have been forgotten about, so why not just deal with it.

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