In efforts aimed at retaining and encouraging female talent, Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Apple will pay for employees to freeze their eggs, a move that some say could also be a ploy to entice women to "sell their souls to their employer".
The popular social networking site recently began covering egg freezing, while the technology giant would start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News. The firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons.
While Apple covers costs under its fertility benefit, Facebook does it under its surrogacy benefit, both up to USD 20,000. Women at Facebook began taking advantage of the coverage this year. While both firms offer benefits for fertility treatment and adoption, Facebook is famous for giving new parents USD 4,000 in so-called "baby cash" to use however they'd like.
The news comes amidst a raging debate over women pay in the fiercely competitive and male-dominated technology sector after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella remarked that women employees should not ask for a pay raise but leave it on their "karma" to get their dues.
"Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do," said Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. Through the benefit, companies are investing in women and supporting them in carving out the lives they want, she said.
The option of freezing their eggs would give women the flexibility to put their fertility on hold while they focus on moving up in their careers and not having to worry about the ticking biological clock. Given that it is a very expensive procedure with a price tag of over USD 10,000 for every round, not every women can afford the option to freeze the eggs.
With notoriously male-dominated Silicon Valley firms competing to attract top female talent, the coverage may give Apple and Facebook a leg up among the many women who devote key childbearing years to building careers. "Covering egg freezing can be viewed as a type of ‘payback' for women's commitment," the report quoted fertility specialist in San Francisco Philip Chenette as saying.
The report said that while techniques and success rates are improving, there is no guarantee that medical procedure would lead to a baby in future. "For many women, taking the step to boost their chances of having kids in the future is worth the uncertainty," it said.
On the flip side, egg-freezing coverage could be viewed as a ploy to entice women to "sell their souls to their employer, sacrificing childbearing years for the promise of promotion," the report added.