Can women have it all?

The tech giants who can do it all: Facebook and Apple now freeze eggs.

If you have children early, your career is over. That’s the message from Facebook and Apple this week.

Apple and Facebook evidently don’t agree that women can be successful both at home and at work as they have offered a new incentive to get women to put off child rearing for as long as possible. Their new incentive offers to pay to have their female workers’ eggs frozen so that they can pass the best days of their lives working for and succeeding in the company.

However many women do succeed in raising a family and being at the top of their careers. Joanne Sweeney-Burke, Managing Director at the Digital Training Institute, Media Box & Young Minds Online, has two kids and does her best to balance her home life and work life on a daily basis. “I think that you need a family that support you in business and I think that you have to equally be supportive of your family. There is no such thing as the perfect work-life balance, you just accept that you have a busy life at home and at work and you make the best of it,” Joanne told The College View.

When asked about Facebook and Apple’s new incentive, Joanne said “I think this new initiative is an indication of the struggles and sacrifices that women have to make to keep all the balls in the air. I think it’s a sad reflection of our Government’s policies in terms of supporting women who work and I also think it’s a reflection of how technological advances are being used to create more prosumers – and we are simply advancing in a world where we want to dictate everything”.

Another woman who balances work and her family every day is mother of eight and RTÉ presenter, Miriam O’ Callaghan. Dubbed the ‘Supermum’, Miriam is known for success at both child rearing and at working in a top position at RTÉ. After a recent Prime Time show, Miriam spoke to The College View about how to succeed both at home and at work. Put simply, Miriam said “It takes a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. But mostly hard work.”

It’s probable that freezing a woman’s eggs won’t solve the problem, just delay it. If they’re not going to have time when they’re 20 then they’ll be even more established in the company by the time they’re 40. Is this about innovation or is it a perks race? Maybe the freezing of eggs is just an added perk to recruit the best employees all over the world.

This idea of your boss being involved in your fertility seems very invasive. Work and personal lives should be kept separate. Both men and women should be allowed to make their own decision based on their own lives without interference from their companies. Imagine talking about your fertility during a meeting with your employer.

This new incentive has received much criticism in the media. The Financial Times said “will an Apple frozen egg still be compatible with its mother after a couple of years of new product releases?” The whole concept seems a bit ridiculous.

It seems odd to think that a giant tech company could care this much about their employees that they are spending more than €12,000 to facilitate them to have children when they’re older. While it seems absurd to think so, Facebook and Apple have been known to provide healthcare, dentistry, opticians and crèches for their employees. It certainly seems like an option for women who do want to advance in their career and hold off on family life. The scary thing is that for this concept to have taken hold, there must be a demand for it. At least we are seeing companies working for women’s rights, even if they are far-fetched.

If women are getting new initiatives to further themselves in the workplace then what about the men? Imagine the hysteria if Apple and Facebook began to freeze men’s sperm. Or should men be given more parental leave to counter balance the initiative?

What these companies should be doing is to offer more flexibility and support to parents so that they can spend more time at home with their families. No mother wants to leave their kids in a crèche all day and go to work but that is what they have to do if they want to be successful in the office. Corporate society is churning out half present mothers who are struggling to balance both work and parenthood with many mothers settling in middle level jobs.

The scary thing is that this initiative is aimed at girls in their twenties. Approaching twenty myself, I can’t imagine being offered by an employer to freeze my eggs in order to increase my productivity. We aren’t machines, where we can turn off switches to stop us from reproducing when the time isn’t right for these corporate industries.

Amidst the controversy, it’s clear that with the right amount of work and balance, women can have it all. “It just depends on what having it all means to you,” said Joanne Sweeney- Burke. “I make sure to look out for my husband and kids, even though I worry that I don’t always excel at it. I make time for them and we have pockets in the week that are sacred. Bedtime is time for Bobby (5) to unlock the ‘storybox’ – my brain full of original stories and he is the only one with the key. For Sophie (19) it’s time during college – I am based in NUIG and Sophie studies there. We all know what each other is doing and we talk and communicate a lot.”

Catherine Devine

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