Earlier this year, Facebook began covering up to $20,000 of its employees’ egg freezing costs as part of its surrogacy benefit, and Apple reportedly will start providing the perk as part of its fertility benefits in January. The pronouncement followed on the heels of recent media buzz over diversity figures released by Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Intel, Facebook, and Twitter confirming the male domination of the tech industry. And Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s recent comments suggesting that working women not asking for a raise is “good karma” has put issues of pay equity and advancement opportunities for women squarely on the front burner.
It’s no secret that Silicon Valley offers many cutting-edge employee perks to attract and retain top talent. Tech companies have built multi-acre campuses replete with generous benefits that include candy shops, banks, dentist’s and doctor’s offices, gyms, bikes and bike repair shops, barbershops, dry cleaners, coffee shops, restaurants, shuttles, and video arcades. Is egg-freezing just another trendy recruiting and retention tool? Is it an idea whose time has come, or does it simply go too far?
Since employer-sponsored health plans already cover pregnancy, childbirth, and even some fertility treatments, is an egg freezing benefit really such a quantum leap? The medical technology behind egg freezing has been touted as having the most potential to change family and career planning since the birth control pill. And like the highly publicized debate on contraceptive coverage earlier this year, some question whether employers are — or should be — wading into arguably moral, religious, and biological issues that surround reproduction.
If perks are intended to maximize employee productivity, what’s the expected ROI on egg freezing? While some women welcome the new benefit, others wonder whether it will encourage — or put more pressure on — women to avoid the so-called “mommy track.” Some see the new benefit offering as an incentive to postpone childbearing — as a not-so-subtle way of inducing talented young women to fully commit to their careers in their 20’s and early 30’s and to defer motherhood until later years. Commenters have asked whether it sends a message of company first, family later.
Is it mutually exclusive to be career-oriented and a young mother? I don’t think so, but the debate continues. As it does, companies will have to come to grips with how far they are willing to go to retain female talent.
Now that Apple and Facebook have decided to cover the cost of female employees freezing their eggs for future implantation, will other employers follow? Will a cryopreservation and egg storage perk go mainstream or will it stay in Silicon Valley? What do you think?