Egg Freezing Just Became a Job Perk at Facebook and Apple, but Is There a Catch?

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Years ago, when I was in the long line at the fertility clinic, waiting to have routine blood draws associated with trying to have a baby, I had insurance envy. I was a self-pay all the way kind of patient. I marveled at the idea of working for a place that valued me enough to extend insurance coverage that included fertility and reproduction.

Companies are not required or mandated to provide fertility coverage. That’s one of the reasons why the news that both Facebook and Apple are now providing egg freezing coverage to their female employees seems pretty fantastic. The companies will be reimbursing their employees for up to $20,000 of any costs related to reproduction. (Those costs can also include the purchase of donor sperm.)

So why would having the option to freeze your eggs and have a menu of other fertility-related reimbursement options now available be such a fab job perk? For starters, it gives the appearance of tremendous forward-thinking and an appreciation of women in the workplace. Lynn Westphal, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University, believes the perk goes both ways. She shared with NBC that “the benefit will likely encourage women to stay with their employer longer, cutting down on recruiting and hiring costs. And practically speaking, when women freeze their eggs early, firms may save on pregnancy costs in the long run.”

Emily, a woman interviewed this spring in Bloomberg Businessweek’s informative cover story on egg freezing, was incredibly open about her feelings on the egg freezing process. The 35-year-old with a Wall Street career refers to her 19 frozen eggs as her baby insurance policy. She absolutely wants to have kids someday, just not right now. Of course that doesn’t mean she is sharing all of this with her male co-workers, “I work with all men. I’m not going to say, ‘Heeey, I need time off for fertility preservation. Awesome, K?’” Emily also paid for her egg freezing out of pocket.

One of the things to realize about egg freezing is this: It isn’t a sure thing. Nothing related to fertility is ever a sure thing. While it’s handy that the coverage is there to have the procedure done, it doesn’t promise a live take-home baby will happen.

Lord Robert Winston, a British fertility expert, says women should beware of the confidence trick of egg freezing. “Women are spending vast amounts of money on this treatment but the success rates simply aren’t there. In fact, less than 10% of the women who do it end up getting pregnant.”

(Those numbers will most likely change for the better now that vitrification, a new method of freezing eggs, is no longer considered experimental and is yielding more successful results.)

Some fertility specialists think the views on egg freezing need to change. Dr. Gillian Lockwood says resistance towards advancements in egg freezing is “essentially a misogynist view”:

I do believe egg freezing is a feminist issue. It was the same reaction when the Pill was introduced, we were told it would destroy family life as we know it. The fact is, there will always be some men out there who hate the idea of women having the same biological freedoms that they have.”

Full disclosure: When I read about Facebook and Apple covering the cost of egg freezing for female employees, I was thrilled, but then something kept bothering me. I even called my mom to see if she could help me pinpoint what it was that wasn’t quite jibing. Finally I landed on the simple fact: When it comes to how women are treated in tech, I am suspicious.

Just less than a week ago, at a conference for women in tech, the CEO of Microsoft said women should “rely on the system” when it came to getting raises. There was talk of karma. Ooof. At the same conference, a “Male Allies Plenary Panel” featuring men from GoDaddy, Google, Facebook, and Intuit told the mostly female audience the way to deal with discrimination at work was to: “Work harder, build great things, speak up for yourself, lean in.”

So what does it say when tech companies with maybe not the best track records for treating or understanding their female employees well, now makes it financially affordable to freeze eggs? Go ahead ladies, put some eggs on ice, on us!

I would worry that now that the benefit was available to me, getting pregnant would be very frowned upon. Your company JUST gave you a way to delay pregnancy for years do they assume and expect you will use it? I’m always going to be thrilled for whatever perks will help get more women into tech careers, but in a world where we hear so much about brogrammers behaving badly, is egg freezing a big enough perk?

Is this just another way that men are somehow controlling the career timeline for women in tech?

That being said, it should be noted that Facebook has one of the best parental leave policies I have ever read about: New parents get four months of paid leave. This is time off available to both mothers and fathers. Their policy also includes same-sex couples. Even better, new parents get $4,000 in “baby cash” for each child born to them or adopted. Apple just updated their parental leave policy earlier this month. Under the new policy, expectant mothers can take off up to four weeks before delivery and 14 weeks after, while expectant fathers and other non-birth parents can take a six-week leave.

These are some perks I think we would all happily work with!

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