Egg-Freezing a New Perk for Apple, Facebook Employees

Tech giants Apple and Facebook are already known for their unusual perks, which include everything from the mundane (standing desk options) to the extravagant (on-site candy shops, anyone?). But now, the Silicon Valley trailblazers are offering one benefit that could not only change standards of coverage, but the way people plan their families: both will now pay for female employees to freeze their eggs.

As NBC News reported, the companies will be the first major employers to cover egg-freezing for non-medical reasons. Facebook has already started providing the coverage; Apple will follow suit in January.

The process allows women to essentially put a pause button on family planning. While the American Society of Reproductive Medicine only lifted the "experimental" label from the procedure two years ago (there's still no firm guarantee that in-vitro fertilization with frozen eggs will result in a baby), the number of women seeking it out has nearly doubled. But at an average cost of $10,000 per egg-freezing round (two rounds are recommended) and another $500 annually for storage, it certainly doesn't come cheap.

Facebook and Apple will both cover up to $20,000 for female employees--the former through its fertility benefit, the latter under surrogacy.

"Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do," said egg-freezing advocate and founder Brigitte Adams.

For career-focused women, fertility decline starts to kick in during important years for making advancements at their jobs. And with the noted lack of female power-players in Silicon Valley (aside, notably, from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg), the new perk could be seen as an attempt to draw in female talent.

On the other hand, some might interpret it as one more way that employers can exert control over their workers' lives. "Would potential female associates welcome this option knowing that they can work hard early on and still reproduce, if they so desire, later on?" wrote Glenn Cohen, co-director of Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics. "Or would they take this as a signal that the firm thinks that working there as an associate and pregnancy are incompatible?"

NBC News noted that the perk may save employers money on hiring costs in the long run, since female workers will be encouraged to stick around--as well as saving on the more traditional, invasive treatments used when women past their peak fertility decide to have a baby.

Still, it remains to be seen whether egg-freezing will catch on with employers other than Facebook and Apple. But it's certainly a question that's present in the minds of some female workers: one NYU study covered in Businessweek found that 19 percent of women who decided to freeze their eggs said they might have had children earlier if not for the inflexibility of their employers.
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