A Harvard Law professor is asking whether or not female associates would welcome their law firms covering the price to have their eggs frozen for later use. Egg freezing is expensive, and many insurance plans don’t cover it. So law firms could incentivize female associates to devote themselves fully to their careers during their best child-producing years, without those associates “losing” their ability to have a family later on.
Yeah, as if it’s significantly easier to raise a family when you are a partner…
Should law firms cover egg freezingt? I have made the argument elsewhere for coverage of reproductive technologies by insurance more generally from a moral and economic perspective. In the case of law firms, I am curious about the PR implications for the firm. Would potential female associates welcome this option knowing that they can work hard early on and still reproduce, if they so desire, later on? Or would they take this as a signal that the firm thinks that working there as an associate and pregnancy are incompatible? Would this option help remedy the deficits faced by women who want to have children on the partnership track or would it in fact exacerbate discrimination against women who do choose to have families early on while at the firm, with the thinking being “she could have waited.” More generally, would this be a blow for or against gender equity at law firms?
Look, I’m all for women’s health being more thoroughly covered by insurance companies and employers. But I think this is a horrible idea all around.
Incentivizing female associates to get pregnant when it’s most convenient for the firm is kind of monstrous. And believe me, any Biglaw firm who was willing to bear the significant cost of egg preservation would be doing it for their benefit, not out of an abundance of sympathy for their female associates. It’s better for the firm if female associates delay child bearing, because most associates (male or female) will wash out long before partnership consideration anyway.
Meanwhile, women who really think starting a family will be so much easier when they are 40-year-old partners than when they are 30-year-old associates seem like the very definition of short-sighted. Partners work a lot of hours too. And while they might have a little more money to hire child care services, wouldn’t a far better firm benefit be enhanced child care services? That would benefit men and women, young associates and aging partners, pretty much everybody who wants to have children.
And I’ll throw a little plug for fathers in here. As long as we keep acting like raising a family is just a “women’s issue,” things aren’t really going to get better for Biglaw families. Telling a female associate to freeze her eggs is similar to expecting male associates to have their wives or partners handle all the child-rearing responsibilities while the associates are working all the time. Should you be billing 100 hours a week while trying to start a family? Probably not. But that’s true for men and women.
Egg freezing isn’t a plan to “balance” work and family. It’s a plan to create additional lawyer drones who don’t have to worry about family considerations. It’s a plan that punishes women who don’t want to wait until they’re middle-aged to grow a family in a petri dish.
If firms want to put money into the ability of their associates to have families, they should be concerned with helping associates care for their children, not putting the kids in cold storage until mommy gets home from work.