Two thought leaders debate the pros and cons of corporate intervention in women’s fertility through a “freeze your eggs” benefit scheme
Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of JourneyHR
If good mental or physical wellbeing are at risk, then a forward-looking business will take responsibility for assisting in any way it can to make sure staff are well cared for.
So if it has an impact on the employee, then it makes sense that fertility may well be the business of human resources.
Women are feeling more empowered than ever to achieve both motherhood and career fulfilment. Both are possible and, for some women, corporate fertility can help on this personal mission.
They are employee benefits not employer benefits and should be treated as such
It’s about responding to staff needs. The emphasis here is on benefits; they’re an option that staff can utilise if they want and not something the employer forces on them. They are employee benefits not employer benefits and should be treated as such.
This may be helping to conceive a child where there are problems in doing so. Or, perhaps, it is about helping a woman to plan when she wants to have children, whether that’s now or later in life.
Just as with shared parental leave or childcare support, not every member of staff will want to use fertility services, but if it could significantly improve the quality of life for staff, then leaders and HR have a place to provide it.
If handled effectively, benefits that respond to the challenges around fertility can help improve staff wellbeing and create a supporting culture. But again, as with parental benefits such as shared leave, it takes time for these things to be adopted or seen as the industry norm and it all goes back to remembering who these benefits are for.
If the focus remains on the individual members of staff, then corporate fertility has the potential to support individuals wanting to start a family. The second this becomes a method to delay pregnancies or avoid parental leave, the business has taken a wrong turn.
To avoid slipping into this “employer benefit” trap, HR needs to stay aware of how this is being communicated and ensure no one is pressuring employees do take up the option for the wrong reason. But equally, information about the benefit should be easily accessible and openly discussed to keep any taboo at bay.
Ultimately, if you keep it employee led at all times, lives could be transformed. As with any benefit, the right package has to reflect the drives and motivations of employees, and establish the right balance between work and personal life.
Runa Magnus, founder of The Change Makers and leader of the #NoMoreBoxes movement
My heart sank when I first heard about fertility benefits because it just seemed to me like another fix created to keep business as usual.
From the moment women entered the workforce, they’ve been forced to fit into a box – let’s call it the business-world box – and as we all know, that box was created by men for men.
Women have been continuously trying to fit into that limiting box, bowing down to all sorts of demands to be accepted. Women are told they need to be competitive, to “lean in” and demand their space. At the same time, women should be cautious, making sure not to expose too much cleavage and heaven forbid women dress in a way that’s too sexy.
This new ‘freeze your eggs’ as a benefit scheme is a feeble and misguided attempt to fix a problem
In 2018, isn’t it time to say goodbye to old boxes limiting 50 per cent of human beings?
This new “freeze your eggs” as a benefit scheme is, for me, a feeble and misguided attempt to fix a problem and a way to avoid looking at the whole picture. It might be done with good intentions, especially from a business perspective, but in my opinion, by encouraging women to plan for families by freezing fertilised eggs, businesses are not being authentic. They are not giving both parents the space to have a role in raising their family and also have a career, and that is a step backwards.
If we want to live in a society where families prosper, we’ve got to move away from the unconscious behaviour of placing women into the outdated “mothers” box and fathers into another historically limiting box. It’s time we started talking about the roles and responsibilities of both parents, and acknowledging that every child has the right to be raised by both parents.
It is vitally important for us all to raise our awareness about the historic gender-bias boxes and be brave enough to look at our responsibility for becoming the change we want to see in our world. There is a massive opportunity for businesses to stand out in the marketplace by acknowledging this.
Organisations that are brave enough to do things differently can walk away from the gender-box bias and behaviour, and be seen as a sustainable and inclusive brand, creating a culture where both parents and their children thrive. This makes for a really magnetic brand, irresistibly attractive for both the right talent and clients.