Last week Facebook and Apple made headlines by offering female staff up to $20,000 (c £12.500) to have their eggs frozen to reduce the pressure on them to have children before a certain age. The logic is that female talent and experience is being lost from the technology sector and such incentives will help attract and retain more women.
So what’s the male equivalent of paying staff to freeze their eggs?
Is it freezing sperm?
Obviously the male biological equivalent of egg freezing is sperm freezing, but men don’t tend to experience the ticking body clock in the same way that women do in their 30s and 40s. Yes, our fertility declines, but at a slower pace than women, which theoretically makes fathering kids a job most men can do at any age. Nor is giving up a career to have children a choice that many men will face; so sperm freezing isn’t really the equivalent of freezing women’s eggs.
Is it paying men to be teachers and nurses?
The reason that egg freezing as an employee perk has emerged from the technology sector, is that it’s a field where women have traditionally been underrepresented. This being the case, the equivalent to ensuring that technology doesn’t lose more women to parenting, could be to ensure that careers like childcare and nursing can attract and retain more men.
Assuming that the low wage paid in these sectors is one of the factors that prevents most fathers from choosing these careers, maybe the male equivalent to egg freezing for techy women is paying men who work in female dominated jobs a large parenting bonus for every child they father, to help keep them in the sector?
Unlikely as this approach seems, when certain jobs remain stubbornly male dominated and female dominated. this could be the socio-economic equivalent of egg freezing as far as trying to tackle gender segregation in the workforce is concerned.
Is it paying dads to stay at home?
But what if Apple and Facebook are trying to address a cultural problem, namely the postmodern quest for the mythical symmetrical family, where men and women are equally involved in making money and raising children. What is the equivalent of egg freezing for men from a cultural perspective?
If we’re talking about redefining the traditional male/female parenting roles then egg freezing is designed to help women spend more of their life at work. That being the case, then the male equivalent is helping men spend more of their life at home. So the male equivalent of helping women freeze their eggs, is helping men to freeze their careers, with paternity leave that's at least as generous (if not more generous) than the maternity pay they currently offer.
There is a huge parental leave gap between the amount mums and dads are paid for taking time off work to be parent. In the public sector, which is dominated by female workers, one union calculated that:
- The amount women are paid for maternity leave ranges from £7,846 to £17,619 (based on a salary of £31,645)
- The amount men are paid for paternity leave ranges from £276.28 to £2,054 (based on a salary of £35,597)
So maybe the equivalent of private sector firms paying generous amount of money for women to freeze their eggs is the public sector paying generous amounts of money to men to freeze their careers. Or maybe, from a psychological perspective, there is no male equivalent to egg freezing because, in our collective psyche, we believe we live in a "man's world" that already works for men, so only needs to be changed to work for women.
What do you think?
---Picture Credit: Flickr/net_efekt
Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men