As Emma Barnett, the Women’s Editor at the Telegraph put it, Silicon Valley just got “darker.” Corporate giants Apple and Google recently announced that they will pay up to $20,000 to their female employees to freeze their eggs.
Whilst these measures appear at first glance to be progressive, to be aimed at enabling women to delay their pregnancies so that their careers can be established and potential fulfilled before becoming mothers, it could also be argued that such “incentives” to delay child birth place yet another pressure on women to conform to the pre-existing working culture and structures in most corporations which have so far yielded so little in terms of equal pay and equality of opportunity. These measures will do nothing to dismantle these existing structures and everything to shore them up for future generations of women.
Arguably these measures also allow employers to exert even more control over women, in particular their freedom of choice as to when and if they have children. These are matters that should be way outside the scope of influence of a woman’s employer.
A more progressive and hopeful measure can be seen in the UK government’s introduction of shared parental leave, which will enable parents or carers with children born or adopted after April 2015 to share what was historically “maternity leave” between them. It is hoped this will allow, if not encourage, parents to take the leave more equally. It may also have the desired effect of making it no less advantageous to employ someone of child rearing age from either sex as either partner may be the one to elect to take shared parental leave. Of course everything will depend on how this new right is taken up. We shall wait and see.
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