Australian women are split on whether businesses offering egg freezing is a valuable perk, or an inappropriate incursion into women’s private lives, a new study has found.
Around one in five large companies in the US offer egg freezing as a benefit after the idea took off at Apple and Facebook. However, the policy is not yet as popular in Australia with women uncertain of the benefits, a new Monash study has found.
The survey of 656 Victorian women found that while 31 per cent were unsure if the benefit was a good thing and 27 per cent thought it was inappropriate, the rest considered it an appropriate benefit for employers to offer.
“The study aimed to explore women’s attitudes towards employer-sponsored egg freezing to investigate whether they thought egg freezing as an employee benefit is an appropriate offer,” lead study author Molly Johnston from Monash University’s Bioethics Centre said.
“We found that while some women identified risks with employer-sponsored egg freezing, many see it as acceptable if offered under certain conditions - largely protections for their reproductive freedoms and assurances that it is offered alongside other family-friendly benefits that promote career building and family.”
The average age of the women surveyed was 28, while three quarters were childless. Around a quarter were single and half said they were living with a partner or married.
Older respondents and those employed part-time were more likely to have concerns about such an offer.
Supporters said it was a step towards gender equality, but others felt it could see female workers pressured into putting off having children.
Additionally, these policies raise concerns that women who choose against freezing their eggs would be disadvantaged at work.
“Ultimately, egg freezing is an expensive procedure that is only partially supported through Medicare,” Johnston said.
That means many women are unable to afford the cost until they are older, if ever.
The problem with freezing eggs at an older age is that it is less effective and the chances of a live birth are reduced.
“Employee-sponsored egg freezing could enable young female employees who might not be ready to have a child, but would value the opportunity to do so later in life, access fertility preservation.”
However, she added, participants also noted that egg freezing benefits likely wouldn’t be necessary at all if companies simply had better family-friendly policies and flexible working arrangements.
“Women need to understand the benefits, risks and limitations of egg freezing, feel no pressure to take up the offer, and if they do, it shouldn’t have any negative impact on and is accompanied by other family-friendly work policies,” she said.
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