Was the chief operating officer of Facebook, one Sheryl Sandberg, involved, do you reckon, in the company’s exciting invitation to its women employees to freeze their eggs so they can become pregnant at their convenience, preferably a little later in life?
I’m not sure that this was one of the recommendations in Lean In, her inspirational advice to women wanting to get ahead in business. Get stuck in, was its motto, and sort out the children in the fullness of time on your terms. She does that herself, you know, with a Shared Earning/Shared Parenting marriage with David Goldberg. The rest of us get on with sharing both those things by dint of it being unavoidable, but we don’t give ourselves airs about it. Anyway, freezing her ova wasn’t how Ms Sandberg got ahead.
This wheeze, which Apple and Facebook came up with simultaneously, has turned out, I’m glad to say, to be a complete turkey in terms of public relations. Female pundits have unhesitatingly identified it as a move designed to convenience not women, but the company. It’s the reduction ad absurdum of the entire ‘career-progress-versus-motherhood’ thing. You want to get ahead? Why not go in for an unnatural and invasive procedure to have babies, which may or may not work out when you’re 45, always supposing you got out enough to find the father for your putative children other than by mail order from Denmark?
I had my own children late, but that was just how things worked out, because I married late – not as a result of a diabolical contract with an employer. The notion of Human Resources has taken a horrid new turn.
I’ve had it, myself, with our collective take on planned parenthood. My own advice to any young women who will listen is to marry young, if they can manage it, and have children once they marry, assuming they can muster somewhere to live and one income – it doesn’t matter whose. (Actually, it’s the marriage notion, not the children bit that makes me sound really weird.)
Apple and Facebook have in fact done intelligent young women a favour. By presenting the motherhood-versus-career choice quite so starkly, they may cause female employees to take stock of what really matters, and an upward career trajectory at Facebook may not be it.
Look, we’re all going to live indecently long, barring accidents. If you’re going to be working til you drop, as most of us must, you can spare a few years after university or whenever to have babies, or to take turns at being the breadwinner. Men are perfectly good at minding children too, you know. Right now it seems like it’s only the very rich, the very poor and immigrant communities who have children young, or who have more than two of them. The gruesome offer of a company egg-freezing facility may be just what it takes for young women to realise what dispiriting life choices are being put their way.