In January 2015, Facebook and Apple will start offering their female executive staff money to freeze their eggs to delay their pregnancy.
Is this a step forward or backward for women?
Firstly, the proposal is solely offered to female executives, not to all female employees. Can you choose to have kids when you want? Absolutely – but only if you are worth it.
Secondly, the success of the oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) process is not guaranteed. In addition, it is a long and often arduous process that can take a significant physical and emotional toll.
Of course, giving more opportunities to women is always a welcome move. But is this really about making work and career advancement available to women when they want – or when their bosses want?
Kellye Sheehan of Women in Technology, a professional organisation in the US for women in technology, told reporters: “you can’t let your employer force you into something that doesn’t fit your values or personal choices".
But surely, if most female colleagues do it, the pressure must be high. In addition, a financial incentive from your employer is already some form of pressure to delay your pregnancy.
More feedback from female employees is needed but the question remains: are we asking women to be like men, to always be available?
And if so, why is it that women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work?
According to the Global Gender Gap Report, released to coincide with the World Economic Forum in New Delhi this week, the gap between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remains wide.
Apple claims that its new policies will help to empower women, although one wonders how such an intrusion into such a personal decision can be empowering.
According to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, the plan will enable women to “lean in” and be as ambitious as they like, rather than having to scale-back their career choices in order to accommodate motherhood.
But why should women have to choose between being ambitious and having kids in the first place?
As Chidi King, head of the equality department at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), told Equal Times : “We need a corporate culture that enables reconciliation of work life and family life, rather than presenting the two as being in conflict.”