Facebook and Apple are making it easier for female employees to delay having kids and focus on their careers instead. Both companies have now offered to pay to freeze their eggs.
Many tech companies offer wild perks such as unlimited vacation, a casual work environment, and meals from five-star chefs. Google even offers massage and on-site laundry services to keep employees working. This appears to be the first time any major tech company has offered freezing a woman’s eggs as a perk.
The procedure can cost up to $10,000 plus the $500 per year to store the eggs. Facebook already offers up to $20,000 in coverage for an egg freezing procedure as a perk to all female employees and Apple will offer to cover the cost starting in January.
Egg freezing is not the only perk offered for women at Apple. “We continue to expand our benefits for women, with a new extended maternity leave policy, along with cyropreservation and egg storage as part of our extensive support for infertility treatments. We also offer an Adoption Assistance program, where Apple reimburses eligible expenses associated with the legal adoption of a child. We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families,” an Apple spokesperson stated in an email.
We have also reached out to Facebook about its coverage of the procedure but have not heard back yet.
The idea behind offering this option to female employees seems innocuous. It gives women an option to delay childbirth to focus on their careers. But while some are embracing the idea as a step toward closing the gender gap, not everyone is warm to it. Critics say this is just one more way to put the workplace before having a family.
Facebook and Apple have not come out and said this was an attempt to narrow the divide between opportunities for male and female employees. However, there is a major gender gap in tech. It’s easy to see the connection between the perk and the two tech giants who offer it. I would personally be more apt to want to work for a company that takes into account what I want out of my career and life.
Women in their 30s reported feeling “empowered” by the prospect of being able to delay a family through cryopreservation in a 2013 study published in Fertility and Sterility. One out of five of those same women in the study cited workplace inflexibility as the reason for delaying having a child.
However, believing that this could close the gap dismisses some underlying problems for women in tech. First, there’s the actual procedure. It’s not a bullet proof solution. The success rate per cycle is about 35 percent, according to Boston IVF.
Second, the problem is not solved by women not having children during their working years. They still earn 82 percent of what men typically earn, childless or not. Further, most workplaces in the U.S. don’t give women ample time to recover from childbirth or accommodate in ways that would make it easier for them to juggle both children and work. The Daily Beast recently documented the cultural practice of the “lie-in” or the act of women caring for other women to give them time to recover.
Most customs around the world give women at least 30 days to recover postpartum. The average paid time off for new moms in America is two weeks. The Family and Medical Leave Act implemented in 1993 is known for a scarcity of benefits. It gives new moms at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave – severely cutting into her earning power for a three-month period.
Offering a way for women to ‘delay’ having children while advancing their monetary position definitely adds options, which is a good thing. But there is the question of what kind of precedents that this enforces. Is it the employee’s responsibility to make every concession for the company — or does a company bear a responsibility to commit to an employee, even if that means letting them take some time off to give birth.