Matthew Lester: Ultimate corporate con job – freezing female employee eggs

Plain and simple, in life there can be no greater tragedy than when a mother loses a child.

We can only grieve with and for June Steenkamp and acknowledge that she has already received a life sentence.

How R8 000 per month or even a lump sum of a few hundred thousand could even be suggested as compensation or remorse is inconceivable to the extent of being offensive. It’s about equivalent to Barry Roux’s hourly rate.

But this article is about something else that continually bugs me. Another possible tragedy in a woman’s life: the inability to have children.  It’s right up there with the loss of a child. And it can so easily happen over a hasty financial or career decision.

I am fascinated but totally unconvinced by the offer made by Apple and Facebook to pay the costs of harvesting and keeping the eggs of female employees for use later, at a more convenient time in their careers.

This gives me flashbacks to days in the professions when potential young female partners were routinely passed over regardless of their talent.  Lets be honest, it still happens today regardless of all employment policies and women’s rights.

The image that Apple and Facebook are attempting to create is of a woman who can have a successful career and then suddenly stop mid-career to start a family. And then start again? This sort of stuff only happens in the movies.

All the evidence suggests that women are exposed to huge additional risk if they try and commence a family post 35. Some would say 30. And if they don’t succeed they are left with all the tragedy of failing to start a family. Some never get over that. It’s just not a risk worth taking.

So the young Facebook or Apple yuppie freezes her eggs and succeeds in her career at age 30 -35 at which point her career trajectory is at its steepest path. And her employment package is pregnant with un-excercised share options that could be forfeited if she stops. If she carries on for another crucial 5 years its smack into the high danger zone of infertility and even cancer implications. This is just too bonkers to even contemplate.

Perhaps Apple and Facebook are doing good by being pro choice. But it’s far easier to cheat the taxman than the human body.

Set aside the medical implications of starting a late family and consider the financial planning implications. This is irrelevant if your name is Bill, Steve, or Mark, but few will make that much.

Those who start a family while they are young, naïve and broke are certainly not doing their children any harm. Any child can benefit from feeling a family financial pinch. The lesson that money is a limited resource is an essential life skill that is so often lacking today.

In any event the cost of young children is minor compared to when they reach their teens. We’re talking nappies and milk versus cellphones and designer jeans.

Just consider a thirty or forty-something pregnancy. The 21st birthday present and university fees are going to be coming out of the retirement annuity fund. This is in stark contrast to those who start families in their 20’s and are kid-free by their 50’s. They have a chance of building a nest egg a retirement.

Hey, some Nifty-Fifties even have fun before confronted with the stark reality of the shady pines retirement home. How else would they ever sell a Harley Davidson?

Families evolved over thousands of years to have children before 35. And no technology, nitro-egg or share option scheme is ever going to replace that fundamental of our genetics.

Can we not define a career path that does more for women than provide lip service to inequality in the work place?

This article also appears on www.biznews.com


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