Is the tech industry helping or hindering women?

By Lilian Ma, Wellesley College (US)
By Lilian Ma, Wellesley College (US) |

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The tech industry is well known for the perks it offers its employees – extensive dining options, daycare, dry cleaning and massages to name a few. Last month, Apple announced that it would start to cover the cost of freezing eggs for female employees in January. But Apple isn’t the first to extend these benefits. In January, Facebook started offering to cover up to USD$20,000 for women to freeze their eggs.

Some have heralded this move as clear commitment from technology companies in a push for greater women involvement in the industry and to make Silicon Valley more “female-friendly”. Most point to the fact that the ideal child-bearing years coincide with prime career-building years, and balancing both is a perpetual challenge for women. Egg freezing, made possible by technological advancements, allows women to extend their fertility by freezing eggs that they can then unfreeze to bear children at a later date.

Yet on the opposite side of the debate, there are those who view this policy as simply masking the underlying problems within the industry. Without accompanied paid maternal and family leave and greater work flexibility, these companies are encouraging business policies that delay but do not solve the problem of work-family balance. This suggestion directly conflicts with the statement released by Apple “We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families”.

Moreover, it sends a signal to young women that those who decide to put off child bearing will be at an advantage compared to those who do not. In a society where women are already “penalised” for having children in their 20s or 30s as evidenced by the wage gap, Facebook and Apple are encouraging a toxic mindset to work up the corporate ladder first, then to worry about having children later. Coupled with the fact that women already have to compete with men who do not have to take maternity leave, this mindset further creates a work environment where women are pressured to conform to company ideals.

As a woman considering the tech industry as my future profession, I look forward to working in an environment where both personal success and family life are encouraged, and where both are equally valued at any point in my career.