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Putting our children on ice is not the way to empower women!

With a nod to political correctness, creativity, innovation, and, I would imagine, a genuine attempt to demonstrate the need to improve business outcomes and corporate popularity by bringing more women into their fold, Intel is apparently considering offering to pay for its female employees to have their eggs frozen ‘as part of its retention and hiring strategy.’ How very futuristic of them!

  Well it’s already de rigueur among companies in Silicon Valley in the US with Facebook and Apple leading the trend so I suppose it was only a matter of time before it hit good old-fashioned, turf footin,’ (my new hobby), potato pickin’ Ireland.

  Now I don’t know about you readers, but in the past, when I’ve applied for a job I did it mainly because it was somewhere I wanted to work, my qualifications fit their specifications, it was close to home and, mostly because it paid well. Never, ever in any scenario, even a science fiction one (and I’m a huge Trekkie), did I think, yeah, I’d like to work for this organisation because they’re very kindly offering to provide me with an incentive scheme; a perk, if you like, where I can avail of the extremely intrusive, invasive, painful and personal procedure of having a medical specialist harvest and then freeze my eggs.

  Egg freezing (or for nerdy readers, oocyte cryopreservation), is an expensive medical procedure, costing approximately €16,000. It allows a woman to have her eggs harvested, stored and replanted into her uterus at a later stage in her life, when she feels she’s ready to have children. This could likely happen at a time when her fertility is at a stage where her age and perhaps medical circumstances may have prevented her becoming pregnant naturally; and, bear in mind, for anyone thinking of having this done, there is no cast-iron guarantee that when your eggs are implanted a pregnancy will occur. Are you with me so far?

  Now, according to Intel’s very capable vice president, Cork native Margaret Burgraff, “nothing is off the table,” when it comes to her employers becoming industry leaders in so-called ‘diversity hiring.’ Mind you Ms Burgraff quickly adds that she personally doesn’t want her “workplace involved” in her fertility. Smart woman. I fully agree with her.

  For me, as a working woman, the use of the term ‘diversity hiring,’ to describe my gender and to refer to what is actually the potential recruitment of 51 per cent of the population is flipping derogative, downright insulting and bloody sinister with the phrase womb raiding immediately springing to my mind. I mean, come on, in my opinion, any employer who dangles the offer of this procedure in front of any female employee is pushing the boundaries too far because they are effectively telling us that women are good…we like having women on our workforce, we embrace them; but mothers, nah, mothers are bad; they interfere with progress.

  Ok, look, I can see where the offer of this procedure could somewhat liberate career minded women from the shackles of wanting to get pregnant, putting blossoming careers on hold while they take maternity leave and then struggling to get back into their stride; and as a career minded woman/wife/mother myself, I can definitely relate to that line of thinking; but dear God, haven’t we got enough problems already without a sinister directive coming from our employers?

  I remember when I joyfully announced to work colleagues that I was pregnant with my second daughter following an 11-year gap after my first pregnancy 22 years’ ago.

  Now this was my choice, I was lucky enough to be able to plan both pregnancies and I empathise with those women who can’t. However, my then boss, a misogynist and himself a father of four, hit the roof. He ranted, raged and shouted at me that he’d thought I was “done with all that nonsense,” and announced he would be sending me to work in the “upstairs office, effective immediately because I am not having a pregnant woman on display in my organisation. It’s bad for business.” 

  As I said, that was 22 years’ ago and he wouldn’t get away with it now. I steadfastly refused to be shut away like a fairground freak and told him so by using some very colourful language. I also told him that if he pushed me I’d shame him by arriving into work each day wearing a sign that said ‘unclean’ dangling from my neck.

  I believe women need to make a decision to have their families based entirely on when it’s right for them – this is what I did – and not when it suits their boss. I also believe that Apple’s statement saying, “Apple cares deeply about our employees and their families, and we are always looking at new ways our health programmes can meet their needs,” when they launched their egg freezing incentive is particularly soulless and will lead to stripping their potential female workforce of the very assets that set them apart from their male colleagues. Bosses should be reforming work practices and policies to suit women not plotting and scheming how best to keep us chained to our cubicles.

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