The period in their twenties and thirties is where men and women establish their career paths and this often requires hard work and long hours. But women have to negotiate an especially tricky path because this is also the peak childbearing years and they have to face hard choices about what to do. Should they short-change their careers to better care for their children? Keep on the career path and forego having children or feel guilty about leaving the care of their children in the hands of others? Try to do both and end up exhausted and feeling a failure at both? Even with the most supportive partner, women still bear the brunt of this problem.
This is particularly true for academia where by the time you get your PhD and land a tenure track job, you are often already in your thirties. Then you have the grueling pre-tenure period of six years where you have to prove your worth to get tenure and that involves a lot of really hard work. By the time you get tenure and feel secure, you may well be approaching the age of forty, but the risks of problems with pregnancy increase substantially after the woman is 35.
It is essential that institutions change to accommodate this and some universities are trying to deal with this. My own gives female and male faculty a year off if they become parents and the tenure clock is stopped for that time, which helps.
But some tech companies, rather that trying to change their practices, are offering to pay women to freeze their eggs while they are young, so that they can have children at a later age when their careers are more established. This has not been met with universal approval because it seems like it increases pressure on women at those firms to prioritize work.
It seems to me that this kind of technological fix to having children late in life should be a last resort. For one thing, the career treadmill never really ends and it is never clear when one should get off. Also, having children while young has other benefits than women being able to supply pristine eggs. When you have children while you yourself are young, they can become adult and self-supporting before you reach old age. I am glad that my children are now adults and do not really need me anymore.
What we need is to create work and social structures that are friendlier to families, such as generous maternity and parental leave, on-site day care facilities, and cheaper high-quality child care, so that women and men are not faced with such wrenching choices.