Advertisement

Egg Freezing and the Feminist Quest for Equality in the Workplace

  • Karey HarwoodEmail author
Conference paper

Abstract

This chapter examines how non-medical egg freezing fits into the feminist quest for equality in the workplace. After describing current American trends in the use of non-medical egg freezing, as well as current trends in women’s employment and delayed childbearing, I examine the argument that egg freezing could potentially function as “reproductive affirmative action” for women pursuing careers, leveling the reproductive playing field by elongating the time women have to pursue education and careers while still allowing them to conceive using their own eggs. I challenge this argument’s reliance on a fiction of planning and control, as well as its willingness to shift the burden of work-family conflict to individual women. I argue that this fiction of planning and control fits too conveniently with the opportunity to profit from a procedure that carries health risks and a relatively low probability of success. I also argue that shifting the burden to individual women to accommodate work structures is not preferable to changing work structures to accommodate women, primarily because deflecting responsibility for a needed structural change does little to create lasting justice. Rather than providing reproductive affirmative action, egg freezing may work at cross-purposes with ongoing efforts to make real structural changes in the American workplace.

Keywords

Egg freezing Reproduction Work-family conflict Delayed childbearing 

Bibliography

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Oct 2015) 2013 Assisted reproductive technology fertility clinic success rates report. ftp://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/Publications/art/ART-2013-Clinic-Report-Full.pdf#page=9. Accessed 5 April 2016Google Scholar
  2. Bianchi SM, Milkie MA, Sayer LC, Robinson JP (2000) Is anyone doing the housework? Trends in the gender division of household labor. Soc Forces 79(1):191–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bordo S (1990) Material girl: the effacements of postmodern culture. Mich Q Rev 29(4):653–677Google Scholar
  4. Cattapan A, Hammond K, Haw J, Tarasoff LA (2014) Breaking the ice: young feminist scholars of reproductive politics reflect on egg freezing. Int J Fem Approaches Bioeth 7(2):236–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cooke A, Mills TA, Lavender T (2012) Advanced maternal age: delayed childbearing is rarely a conscious choice. Int J Nurs Stud 49(1):30–39CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Crittenden A (2001) The price of motherhood: why the most important job in the world is still the least valued. Metropolitan Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Davey M(19 Nov 2015) Women start out as ambitious as men but it erodes over time, says researcher. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/nov/19/women-start-out-as-ambitious-as-men-but-it-erodes-over-time-says-researcher. Accessed 5 April 2015
  8. Dominus S (28 Feb 2016) Rethinking the work-life equation. The New York Times Magazine: 47–49. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/rethinking-the-work-life-equation.html. Accessed 5 April 2016
  9. EggBanxx. https://www.eggbanxx.com/. Accessed 5 April 2016
  10. Extend Fertility. http://www.extendfertility.com/how-it-works/pricing. Accessed 5 April 2016
  11. Goold I, Savulescu J (2009) In favour of freezing eggs for non-medical reasons. Bioethics 23(1):47–58CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Harwood K (2009) Egg freezing: a breakthrough for reproductive autonomy? Bioethics 23(1):39–46CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Kelly EL, Moen P, Tranby E (2011) Changing workplaces to reduce work-family conflict: schedule control in a white-collar organization. Am Sociol Rev 76(2):265–290CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Ludden J31 May 2011 Nudging young women to think about fertility. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/2011/05/31/136401095/nudging-young-women-to-think-about-fertility
  15. Matthews TJ, Hamilton BE (Aug 2009) Delayed childbearing: more women are having their first child later in life. National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, vol 21. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db21.pdf. Accessed April 5, 2016
  16. Mathews TJ, Hamilton BE (Jan 2016) Mean age of mothers is on the rise: United States, 2000–2014. National Center for Health Statistics data brief, vol 232. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db232.htm. Accessed 5 April 2016
  17. Mead R (17 Oct 2014) Cold comfort: tech jobs and egg freezing. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/facebook-apple-egg-freezing-benefits. Accessed 5 April 2016
  18. Mertes H, Pennings G (2011) Social egg freezing: for better not for worse. Reprod Biomed Online 23(7):824–829CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Mohapatra S (2014) Using egg freezing to extend the biological clock: fertility insurance or false hope? Harv Law Policy Rev 8(2):381–411Google Scholar
  20. Petropanagos A (2010) Reproductive ‘choice’ and egg freezing. In: Woodruff TK, Zoloth L, Campo-Engelstein L, Rodriguez S (eds) Oncofertility: ethical, legal, social and medical perspectives. Springer, New York, pp 223–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. PR Newswire, MIT Sloan School of Management (13 Jan 2016) First ever use of control group to measure effectiveness of workplace flexibility program shows increased job satisfaction, reduced burnout and stress say U Minnesota and MIT Sloan Co-Authors. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/first-ever-use-of-control-group-to-measure-effectiveness-of-workplace-flexibility-program-shows-increased-job-satisfaction-reduced-burnout-and-stress-say-u-minnesota-and-mit-sloan-co-authors-300203452.html. Accessed 5 April 2016
  22. Rabinowitz A (19 Mar 2015) Why egg freezing is an impossible choice. Nautilus. http://nautil.us/issue/22/slow/why-egg-freezing-is-an-impossible-choice. Accessed 5 April 2016
  23. Reich R (2014) Inequality for all. Anchor Bay Entertainment, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  24. Rosenblum E (17 April 2014) Later, baby: will freezing your eggs free your career? Bloomberg Business. http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-04-17/new-egg-freezing-technology-eases-womens-career-family-angst. Accessed 5 April 2016
  25. Sandel M (April 2004) The case against perfection. The Atlantic Monthly 293(3):51–62Google Scholar
  26. Shulevitz J (8 Jan 2016) It’s payback time for women. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/opinion/sunday/payback-time-for-women.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0. Accessed 5 April 2016
  27. Slaughter A-M (2015) Unfinished business: women, men, work, and family. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Schmidt M (3 Feb 2016) Pentagon to offer plan to store eggs and sperm to retain young troops. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/us/politics/pentagon-to-offer-plan-to-store-eggs-and-sperm-to-retain-young-troops.html?_r=1. Accessed 5 April 2016
  29. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice (2014) Committee opinion: oocyte cryopreservation. Obstet Gynecol 123(1):221–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. The Practice Committees of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (2013) Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline. Fertil Steril 99(1):37–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women in the labor force: a databook (December 2015) BLS Reports 1059:1–105. https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-databook/archive/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2015.pdf. Accessed March 10, 2017
  32. Witkin G, Tran A, Lee JA, Schuman L, Grunfeld L, Knopman JM (2013) What makes a woman freeze: the impetus behind patients’ desires to undergo elective oocyte cryopreservation. Fertil Steril 100(3):S24CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

Personalised recommendations