Opinion: Career, cryopreservation then kids | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 15.10.2014
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Opinion: Career, cryopreservation then kids

Facebook and Apple want to give women the option of freezing their eggs at the companies' expense in order to pursue a career while they're still young. DW's Naomi Conrad is critical of the idea.

At first glance, the idea seems quite logical, even elegant: If a woman becomes pregnant, a company loses a qualified employee in whom it has invested quite a bit for an extended period of time.

If the child is born then the baby competes for attention with overtime, business trips and cocktail parties where ideas and business cards are exchanged. A career is interrupted, slowed down at the very least and perhaps even completely stopped. The company can not siphon the full potential of the employee.

First career, then kids

That is why some American companies want to help young, highly qualified women put their desire to have children, rather than their career, on ice. Facebook has already put forward the idea of paying employees to freeze their eggs for future fertilization and Apple has said it intends to follow suit next year.

According to reports by US broadcaster NBC, the two companies pay up to $20,000 of the cost of collection of ova and their storage. Becoming pregnant, goes the creed, is something that women can do later, when they have already climbed to an attractive and secure position on the career ladder. After their mid-30s, fertility in women declines rapidly, but women who freezes their eggs at a younger age may have children later.

Is it all purely for show or a really good plan? Aren't there always business trips, hours of overtime, and evening appointments to meet customers and contacts? If freezing eggs ultimately represents a problem put on hold, why not solve it immediately and completely, rather than postpone it? That is, women can have a career and have children without being forced to sacrifice one of the two.

Kommentarfoto Naomi Conrad Hauptstadtstudio

Naomi Conrad reports from DW's Berlin studio

Maternity leave not the rule in the US

In that way, Apple and Facebook, with their company kindergartens and paid parental leave of about four months, are in a sense an island of bliss. Not for Germans of course, but in the American context: In the United States there are no laws guaranteeing parental leave. Another thing increasing the attractiveness of freezing eggs is this; the male-dominated IT industry can now be a place where women feel they can combine family and career.

Only that's not really what they are offering. Finding a balance between children and work doesn't mean postponing starting a family! What it means is flexible yet reliable employment contracts that offer security in planning for the future, instead of leaving young workers to plan their lives from one year to the next. It means a work culture in which overtime and evening appointments are not a regular occurrence.

What is required is a comprehensive range of daycare centers for small children - and partners who are equally committed to helping in household work and childcare, or sometimes even taking over both completely.

In short: There is a need - even here in Germany - for a legal basis for women - and men - to be able to combine their families and careers as well as they possibly can.

It shouldn't a company's right to steer their employees' family planning - and defer it to a later date. What does "later" actually mean? When women are older, sometimes less resilient and less attractive for the hip, creative IT industry? Then they can just stay home and take of their children! Presumably forever. Right?