Earlier this month, news came out that two Silicon Valley giants, Apple and Facebook, offer women employees a game-changing perk: it will pay for them to freeze their eggs.
Facebook recently began covering egg freezing, and Apple will start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News.
The companies offer egg-freezing coverage under slightly different terms: Apple covers employees’ costs — as well as the female partners of employees — under its fertility benefit, while Facebook covers it under its surrogacy benefit. Both companies will pay up to $20,000 in benefits.
Women at Facebook began taking advantage of the coverage this year. Along with Apple, the two firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for nonmedical reasons. In the past, coverage for egg freezing has only been approved in cases where a woman has a medical reason (e.g., a cancer diagnosis).
The rationale for the program is pretty straightforward: freezing eggs enables younger women to focus on their careers and put off becoming pregnant, which is a good thing, right?
Well, as with all discussions related to motherhood or women’s reproductive choices, a cultural debate has ensued online and elsewhere … the Great Egg-Freezing Debate, if you will.
For many women, the companies are moving in the right direction. After all, a majority of patients who froze their eggs reported feeling “empowered” in a 2013 survey published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, according to NBC News. In addition, egg freezing has even been described as a key to “leveling the playing field” between men and women in the workplace. Without the pressure of a ticking biological clock, women have more freedom in making life choices, say advocates.
However, other women have expressed concern that the perk could be used as subtle pressure to influence female workers to delay starting families.
Kellye Sheehan, president of the Women in Technology industry group, called the benefit “a nice perk,” but said to USA Today, “Is the employer trying to tell us something? Agreed, working mothers have a lot to juggle. But you can’t let your employer force you into something that doesn’t fit your values or personal choices.”
The Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) asked Naama Bloom, CEO and founder of HelloFlo, a subscription service for all your period needs — and a speaker at the WIRLC launch party — what she thought of the controversy.
“It will be interesting to watch the data from this and see whether women at these companies take advantage of the benefit,” Bloom said via email. “Ultimately, culture in a company is the most critical factor in helping women progress in their careers. Ensuring you have wage equity and a supportive environment for working parents seems to me a good place to start. Once you have that taken care of, adding benefits like egg freezing, sure, why not?”
As for whether covering egg freezing will become a trend for retail companies, Bloom said she hates to be a cynic “but it’s hard to imagine that companies that experience significant margin pressure will be lining up to add this benefit anytime soon — unless it proves to generate headlines without much cost due to low usage of the benefit.”
What do you think about companies covering egg freezing for their female employees? Is it a good idea, or subtle corporate control and the first step along a dangerous and dystopian reproductive path? Let us know by posting a comment below!