Corporate Egg Freezing Offers May Send The Wrong Message
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The news of Apple and Facebook covering egg freezing also raises big questions about what this could mean for women in the workplace who struggle with when to start a family. Emma Rosenblum has reported extensively on such women. She writes for Bloomberg Businessweek and joins us now. Emma, welcome to the program.
EMMA ROSENBLUM: Thank you.
CORNISH: So you write that this effort seems a little bit more like a PR stunt more than anything else - how come?
ROSENBLUM: So I wrote a cover story for Businessweek in April, where I talked to dozens of women who had frozen their eggs. And most of the women that I spoke to were in their mid-thirties. They had not yet found husbands or partners with whom to settle down and have children. And that was the main reason that they were freezing their eggs. So this sounds good, but in reality, this is not a procedure that many women choose to do lightly. It's not something that they necessarily are wanting to do. So I just don't think that it's going to be this, you know, every 25-year-old woman who works at Facebook is going to, you know, now immediately say, great; I'm going to get my eggs frozen. It's just not that kind of procedure. People don't do it that often.
CORNISH: And egg freezing is still not the same - right? - as freezing a woman's biological clock, right? I mean, is this giving the sense - this benefit - giving the impression that it's sort of an easy process or a procedure that results in pregnancy more frequently than it actually does?
ROSENBLUM: Well, I think that that idea is out there in the culture, that, you know, by freezing your eggs, you can definitely get pregnant when you're 50. I mean, it just - it's just not the case. Egg freezing is - has about the same success rate as IVF. So if you're able to get eggs, which sometimes you aren't, there is a one in five chance that that will result in a successful pregnancy. So no, it's not the same as, you know, you can definitely freeze your biological clock. We don't have to worry about it again. It's really a last resort for women who are at a point in their lives when they think, OK, it's not going to happen to me before I'm 40. And I want to be able to at least have some chance of having kids naturally.
CORNISH: So what are the odds of this becoming more widespread? I mean, is there any sense that any other companies, even Fortune 500 companies, will follow suit?
ROSENBLUM: Yeah, I definitely think so. And actually, in my reporting I found that there are rumblings of other companies who are doing this. They're just not coming out and saying that they're doing it publicly. So I do think there are actually financial firms and some in the insurance industry that already cover this. And now, with Facebook and Apple saying it's something to be proud of, it's something to try to attract women, that these companies are going come out and say, oh, yeah, we do it too. (Laughter). So, you know, there is this kind of perks arm race, especially in Silicon Valley. So I think that whatever these big firms do, a lot of their competitors are going to follow suit and soon be covering egg freezing as well.
CORNISH: What surprised you about the public debate about this? I mean, obviously, in your profile there were women who found this empowering. And yet, the discussion over the last few days, there are people who are arguing it's paternalistic and a little creepy.
ROSENBLUM: Yeah. I was surprised by that reaction just 'cause I don't think that it's quite based in fact. You know, you can sort of theoretically come at it and say, you know, it's a company who's trying to meddle in your life. And, you know, they're going to be encouraging young, female employees to put off having children and, you know, that argument to me just seems false because having actually spoken to a lot of women who have done this, it's not a, you know, particularly pleasant or easy procedure. It's something that's quite emotionally fraught for a lot of these women. And it's - you know, you have a counseling session beforehand. So I don't think that those arguments - those arguments don't quite work and that it's more just another option for women in the workforce. It's another health benefit.
CORNISH: In the meantime, we've all been focused so much of this kind of high-tech reproductive technology. But what's the state of things when it comes to just regular old parenting benefits, things like maternity leave?
ROSENBLUM: Right. I mean, I think the United States really lags behind in developed countries in terms of benefits for working parents, especially women, in terms of maternity leave and paternity leave. I mean, we are - we give, you know, way less than a lot of countries in Europe, especially. And I think that, you know, people have said that this announcement from Facebook and Apple is kind of like a PR Band-Aid over the larger issue of, you know, getting these benefits to working women and to women who don't necessarily work at companies that are, you know, so well-paying and so prestigious as Apple and Facebook. So I do think that there are issues to be resolved there. And yet, I don't think that this really should, you know - this is just another health benefit for women. And I think that, you know, great, we'll take it.
CORNISH: Emma Rosenblum, she writes for Bloomberg Businessweek. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
ROSENBLUM: Thank you so much.
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