The big news from the technology world isn’t about IPOs or responsive web or application development. Not even close. It’s about eggs—of the lady kind.
Apple recently announced that they’ll be following in Facebook’s footsteps and offering female employees money to get their eggs frozen. Facebook, it seems, has been quietly taking up the practice since the start of this year and Steve Jobs’ signature company will start taking the step next year.
So what does that mean if you’re a woman working at one of these big-name companies? Certainly it’s a perk you don’t have to take, and it doesn’t sound like anything that needs to be broadcast to the bosses. Essentially you’re able to have some of the pricey, still new-age procedure covered by insurance. Apple and Facebook are providing $20,000 worth that can or can not be used.
Now, mind you, Apple and Facebook aren’t exactly explaining their decisions or giving us deep insights into this. So, not surprisingly, the public has gone wild with speculation and opinions that really run the gamut.
First, a few facts that brought things into focus for me a bit:
• Egg freezing pretty much works as a way of hitting the pause button. Obviously the idea is to allow women to put off having children. So, if I freeze my eggs at 27, when I come back even years later to use the eggs, they’ll act and perform like 27-year-old eggs even if, by that point, I’m well into my 30s.
• Sounds great but it’s not terribly successful yet. Fertility and Sterility, an academic journal, found that after 30, less than 25 percent of the time does the egg freezing result in an actual live birth. This, to me, is the key time to measure this. Who cares if the procedure is successful for women in their 20s? They “need” it far less than women a decade or two older than them.
• And, keep in mind the expense. The $20,000 Apple and Facebook threw out covers, basically, two rounds. Two tries. That’s all. No guarantees.
• Speaking of no guarantees, the American Reproductive Society, who knows a thing or two about fertility and baby-making, only stopped calling egg freezing experimental two years ago. Two bloody years. That’s nothing. Hardly the safety and assuredness that a surgeon could offer for far more procedures.
So, given all of these intimidating facts, what do I think? To tell you the truth, I’m not sure.
There’s the aspect of motivating and the true message here. Are Apple and Facebook saying to women, “We’re in a field that is traditionally male-dominated and we want to show you that we want to welcome your gender, make tech more inclusive and an easier field for you to work in?” Or, are the companies, almost in a winking manner, saying, “Now we really, as if you weren’t already, want you to prioritize work over starting a family. We’re making it easier for you to put this off, so no excuses or reason to leave us just yet to have a baby?”
I’d be guessing if I picked one over the other or played the democratic card and theorized that it’s a bit of both.
Luckily, or unluckily, I don’t plan to work for either tech enterprise any time soon, so I won’t have to psychoanalyze any personal decision on this front. For those female employees in this boat, though, I hope it provides an opportunity that would have been cost-prohibitive otherwise, whatever Facebook and Apple’s motivations truly are,