Any woman who chooses the path of social freezing is entitled to do so and should not be blamed and shamed. There are many reasons why women opt for the new and rather expensive measure: they prefer to focus on their career for now and have children later, or they haven’t found the right partner yet.
But implementing the measure on a structural level, putting in place monetary and other incentives (and maybe even social pressure) for female employees is not progress, is not empowerment and is definitely not a step towards more equality for women in the workplace. It’s a selfish measure by any company that chooses the path and should not be followed by any corporation, organization or government that aims at establishing true equality of the sexes in all spheres of society and all levels of the career ladder.
There are two problems with social freezing. First, offering and paying for one out of many possible measures is not empowering women in their choice; it’s nudging women into one direction after having made the decision. Second, the specific measure of social freezing puts the burden on women and diverts the responsibility from the structural level, which is where the empowerment needs to happen.
There are various measures companies can put in place if they care about the freedom, equality and empowerment of their female employees. The key lies in offering a range of possibilities and treating them all as equally valid. The main reasons for ongoing inequality between the sexes lies in the lack of honest respect for choices women take regarding their body, parenthood or sexuality. The superwoman-complex that tells us that we can have it all, both career and family, may have liberated some of us from the false dichotomy prison of “family OR career”. But it neither changed the way our choices are judged on the way there; nor did it widen the catalogue of possibilities to achieve that goal.
If a company or a society wants to truly call itself equal, it must provide freedom of choice for all its members with all their differences. In the case of women it would mean no more judging and shaming of a woman’s appearance as one of the most important characteristics of her being, no more judging and shaming of a woman’s sexual life (promiscuous if she freely sleeps with men; frigid if she doesn’t) and no more judging and shaming of a woman’s family planning. With regards to the last, structural measures can do a lot to influence the change. If a company or society want to show true respect to a woman’s parenthood choice they need to offer her a range of possibilities and allow her to choose: paid leave, job models that allow part-time on all levels where women must not fear to lose their jobs, day-care facilities in the company, or a pay raise for a certain amount of time to allow the new mother to hire a nanny.
Selfish and harmful to real equality
Social freezing does not empower women, it postpones the question of family (and the ensuing challenge to make work and family actually work) to a time after the female employee has given her potential to the company. It nudges the employees to put the question on hold, but it does not take even one step in making it easier for a woman to have a family and a career.
Social freezing cannot be a model. It is simply too expensive for any smaller company to implement or any woman to afford that does not have an incredibly well-paid job. The majority of women in the workforce doesn’t have the money and doesn’t work in a company that does either. For all these reason it can only be an individual choice for very few individuals.
Every woman taking that path should have her choice respected. But when put in place as a structural incentive by a company or the state it is not empowering, it is only selfish and even harmful to real equality.