Happy International Women’s Day!
Perfectly set amidst Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” It’s also a day to remember the struggles of past generations of women, who fought for the vote, the ability to work and gain financial independence, and reproductive rights. Lastly, it’s a call to action for progress on the parts of gender equality that could still use some improvement (the wage gap, anyone?). Since we think about women’s health all day, everyday, this got us wondering: what can egg freezing do to further the mission of equality?
A lot, we think—as long as it’s available to and affordable for more women. Here’s why: bodily autonomy and reproductive choice are some of the most important factors contributing to a woman’s pursuit of education, professional success, and earning potential.
Women who have control over when and if they want to have babies are more likely to enroll in college, stay in college, and graduate. They’re also more likely to pursue advanced degrees. There are a few huge benefits to a more educated womankind: more women in academics and higher education means a more diverse body of students and professors, which is good for everyone; education is one way to feel more fulfilled, explore interests and passions, and become a more compassionate and engaged world citizen—and women should have an equal chance to achieve these personal goals; and higher education significantly raises a woman’s income potential and lowers her chance of unemployment.
Reproductive choice also leads to more young working women. Thanks to the ability to delay childbearing, the percentage of women in the workforce increased from 39% to 55%. Again, a more diverse workforce and more personally and professionally fulfilled women is good for everyone. Plus, financial independence is a really important aspect of women’s liberation. No, money’s not everything—but the ability to make and control their own income has been a huge contributor to women’s increasing freedom in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
And if economic independence is good, then more of it—via higher wages—is even better. Studies of U.S. Census results show that delaying childbirth 5 years results in an average salary increase of $16,000. The evidence is clear: women who have the tools to choose when, how, and with whom they reproduce have more professional and educational options and higher earning potential, which offers more personal options. That’s not even including the psychosocial benefits of reproductive choice, like sexual freedom, lower societal pressure, and the ability to choose a mate more carefully (which men have been enjoying for millennia, we might add).
The Pill was a huge first step in the reproduction revolution. Methods of reproductive control have been in play for centuries; ancient women used all varieties of birth control, including seaweed diaphragms and elephant dung suppositories (seriously!). But the Pill was considered revolutionary because it was extremely reliable and because women could control it themselves—they didn’t have to rely on their male partner to wear a condom or pull out.
But what about women who do (or might) want to have children, eventually? Birth control technology like the Pill gave women the freedom to delay childbearing and pursue careers, education, and other personal goals, but unfortunately, biology is a bit ageist (and sexist, if you ask us). The “biological clock” still ticks away, oblivious to the fact that young women have an almost overwhelming number of options these days.
And, inconveniently, the age that women are most likely to be pursuing these other paths is the age when their fertility peaks—and then begins to decline. This really throws a wrench into the plans of women who want to reap the benefits of their increased freedom and still have a family one day.
That’s why egg freezing has been heralded as the “great equalizer” and the “next step in women’s equality.” At its core, egg freezing allows a young woman to make choices for herself—whether those choices are to focus on her career, pursue higher education, travel, date without pressure, or any other activity that doesn’t involve having babies right now—while preserving the option to have children when she’s good and ready.
Of course, the benefits of egg freezing move from good to great when they’re available to more women. That’s why we applaud company- and military-funded fertility preservation, and why we’re offering egg freezing to young women at a price that’s actually feasible for them. We know there’s still a lot more we can do to improve education about and availability of egg freezing, and we’re working on it every day.
The result of all this technological and medical innovation? More fulfilling and purposeful lives for women. More options for young women choosing a life path—the options that young men have always had. More women in the boardroom, in the college classroom, on Forbes lists, on trips around the world, or doing whatever else makes ‘em tick. And one day, maybe, more awesome, forward-thinking kids born to the powerful women who lived life on their own terms.
What’s your vision of gender equality? Tell us @ExtendFertility.