Apple and Facebook pay women to put family plans on ice
How much is delaying a family worth? For female employees at Facebook and Apple, the answer is around $20,000 (£12,600) according to NBC news.
The two tech giants are apparently prepared to shell out to pay for egg freezing procedures, with the idea that women can progress their careers without having to worry about declining fertility.
Facebook has already begun offering the “perk”, according to NBC, while Apple will be making it available from the new year.
“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,” the company told the BBC.
A blow for or against gender equality?
Family-focused policies aren’t unusual in Silicon Valley. According to Wired, the egg-freezing offer is just the latest step in a movement among tech companies to “bolster their arsenal of perks for female workers”.
Facebook gives female employees $4,000 (£2,500) in “baby cash” to spend as they wish, while Apple offers adoption support and up to $15,000 (£9,400) for fertility treatments.
Emma Rosenblum, editor of the Etc. work-life section of Bloomberg Business Week, said many women describe freezing their eggs as an “empowering” experience.
“If a 25-year-old banks her eggs and, at 35, is up for a huge promotion, she can go for it wholeheartedly without worrying about missing out on having a baby. She can also hold out for the man or woman of her dreams,” she said.
Shelley Correll, a sociology professor and director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, told the news agency AP: “Anything that gives women more control over the timing of fertility is going to be helpful to professional women.”
It again puts the onus on women rather than men to think about when to have children and how this will impact on their career
But some are more skeptical about the idea. Daisy Sands, head of policy at the Fawcett Society, told the BBC: “There’s a danger that with this sort of policy companies give a signal – or even promote the idea – that a women (sic) needs to postpone having children in order to succeed in the workplace.”
“It again puts the onus on women rather than men to think about when to have children and how this will impact on their career,” she said, adding it could also mean important structural changes are not introduced.
Her comments echo those of Glenn Cohen, co-director of Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, who raised the same questions in relation to law firms offering egg freezing.
“Would this option help remedy the deficits faced by women who want to have children on the partnership track or would it in fact exacerbate discrimination against women who do choose to have families early on while at the firm, with the thinking being ‘she could have waited’?” he asked in a blog post last year.
“More generally, would this be a blow for or against gender equity?” Cohen asked.