Where will company perks go next?
News came out on Oct. 14 that Facebook Inc. offers its female employees the chance to freeze their eggs, while Apple Inc. said it is planning to do the same starting in 2015. NBC News first reported the perks.
Freezing eggs allows women to remove and store eggs when they're in their prime fertility window — a period that typically overlaps with prime career-advancement years. The procedure costs roughly $10,000 per round, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Many doctors say two rounds is better to increase the likelihood of catching the best batch of cells.
Apple and Facebook say they will cover up to $20,000 in costs related to fertility or surrogacy, respectively, The Wall Street Journal reports. Spouses on company insurance plans are covered, too.
Given the competitiveness for talent in the tech industry — not to mention the growing attention being paid to women advancing in the space — I'm not surprised by this development. Still, I am not exactly sure if this is a noble offering on the part of these companies or just another trap in the hyper-work environment of Silicon Valley.
On the one hand, offering female employees and spouses the opportunity to undergo such an expensive procedure to promote a woman's future ability to start a family is certainly noble — just as offering free meals, on-site dry cleaning, etc., can be viewed as a luxury that helps workers manage both work and life better.
But underneath the surface, I often wonder if the message from employers offering such perks is this: Your life is your work for us, and we will go to great lengths to ensure that your priorities are company first, life second.
When people talk of how nice it must be to have on-site dry cleaning or the ability to have a meal ready for you for free at all hours of the day, I usually remind them that, while these things are certainly nice, it just means that these companies really want to make sure you have no reason to leave the office.
Getting hungry at 5 p.m.? No need to go home. Dinner is on us. Have to drop and pick your kid off at day care? Please, we have a day care center on-site.
And now, with this latest development, want to start a family in your prime fertility years? We've got you covered. Just freeze your eggs and wait until later in life, when working and advancing your career here has come and gone.
Now, to be sure, I'm certain many will applaud this effort, take advantage of this perk, and view it as a huge benefit. But maybe employees — men and women — don't want to wait until they're 40 to start a family. Maybe having children while you're relatively young is important.
I imagine there will still be plenty of female employees at both Facebook and Apple that feel this way. They may choose not to freeze their eggs, work nonstop and set course to start a family in their 20s and 30s — with the hope that they will be able to return and advance their careers once their children are older.
Yes, the statistics showing the percentage of women who do take leaves to have kids and then return to work later are not great. But maybe instead of offering to freeze eggs, companies should be putting more time and effort into finding ways to help transition working mothers back into work who did choose to start families early in their careers.
What do you think?