As of January 2015, both Apple and Facebook will pay up to $20,000 to cover the cost of egg freezing for employees. The procedure, called oocyte cryopreservation, essentially extends a woman’s years of fertility, by extracting viable eggs to be stored and reinserted into her uterus when she’s ready—even if that time comes well into her 40s.
No doubt, the procedure is viewed by many as a luxury—in part because it’s expensive—but is it a perk? According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a round of egg freezing costs between $7,000 and $12,000 initially, plus about $3,000 for drugs and $1,000 per year for storage. It also gives women more control over their personal timelines, which also is to say, professional growth.
Just this morning on NPR, Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles asserted that,”for a woman, when she has a child is the single most important economic decision she’ll ever make in her life.” Egg freezing can stretch some of the biological parameters associated with that choice. But it isn’t an easy road, and it doesn’t always result in a baby.
What is the message here?
By helping to give women the choice of putting their biological clocks on the back burner, these companies would seem to be on the forefront of female empowerment. But perhaps equally empowering, if not more so, would be the creation of career tracks that are more amenable to parenthood (and motherhood in particular), along with more generous policies regarding parental leave and childcare. The plans for Facebook’s $120 million, Frank Gehry-designed campus include a doggy daycare, but nothing of the sort for children.
At present, Facebook offers four months of paid leave for new moms and dads alike, a $4,000 cash bonus for new parents to spend as they wish, and subsidies for childcare. Apple’s policies allows expectant mothers to take up to four weeks off before delivery and 14 weeks after. Expectant fathers (and other non-birth parents) get six weeks.
These policies, quite liberal by American standards (pdf), imply that the companies want to create more hospitable professional environments for new parents. With this latest “perk,” are these employers showing themselves to be early adopters of 21st century family planning? Or are they simply telling female employees in prime childbearing years: Don’t do this now.