Apple and Facebook in the Hot Seat After Offering to Pay for Women to Freeze Their Eggs

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Calm down, people. Yes, we all love to comment about the latest perks Silicon Valley companies are throwing at their engineers in the arms race to get and keep tech talent—particularly, female talent—but this week’s firestorm over a relatively new employee benefit has been over the top. National TV networks,The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine…the story has been everywhere and often framed in outrage.

The basic news, apparently broken by NBC: Facebook since January has been covering the costs of egg freezing for female employees concerned about preserving their fertility; Apple has included the coverage in the benefits package that will start January 2015. That’s about $10,000 for the procedure, plus $500 or so for annual storage costs.

I’m guessing neither company expected this addition to their benefits package to generate so much media attention. For Apple, it’s simply one of many procedures included under its fertility coverage, which has a $20,000 cap. Facebook, with the same $20,000 cap, lists it under its surrogacy coverage. I’m guessing it cost the companies little—or more likely nothing—to include the option; the cap remains at $20,000, and it’s certainly possible that preemptive egg freezing might prevent the need for costly fertility treatments later.

While these companies are ahead of the curve, I’d give them credit—not grief—for being proactive; the “experimental” label just came off the procedure two years ago. I’m guessing we’ll soon see this option in the typical fertility package for companies that already offer that coverage.

But the fact that egg freezing is now an accepted means of preserving fertility is not what generated the media interest. Instead, it was spun as bad news—that Facebook and Apple, by offering this benefit, are sending the message to their female employees that work should come first, and family later—much later. The satirical publication The Onion, at risk of being trumped by reality here, pushed the envelope with “Facebook Offers To Freeze Female Employees Newborn Children.”

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SOURCE: Tekla Perry 
IEEE Spectrum

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