Egg-Freezing On The Company Dime

Megan Garber contemplates Facebook’s and Apple’s move to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs:

[W]hile the companies’ inclusion of egg-freezing as a health benefit may certainly be part of the Valley’s notorious perks arms race, you could also read it as a sign that egg-freezing has reached a kind of cultural normalcy. In 2008, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine called the technique “experimental,” warning, based on current evidence, that it “should only be offered in that context.” In 2012, however, citing sufficient evidence to “demonstrate acceptable success rates in young highly selected populations,” it lifted that designation.

Since then, according to NBC’s Danielle Friedman, doctors have seen a steady increase in the number of women who have sought out the procedure.

Amanda Hess doubts many other employers will follow Facebook’s lead unless they are forced to:

Despite ample evidence that covering assisted reproductive technology is generally good for business—a 2008 review found that 91 percent of companies that cover fertility treatments didn’t see a rise in costs to the employers—the vast majority of American employers still decline to provide the benefit, dismissing it as too expensive. Maybe other employers will heed Facebook’s example and cover $20,000 in egg freezing costs for their employees; maybe they’ll also take a cue from YouTube and install giant, three-lane indoor slides in their offices.

But Jessica Bennett thinks numerous companies would be wise to get onboard:

As the Lancet put it in a medical paper earlier this month, covering egg freezing as a preventative measure could save businesses from having to pay for more expensive infertility treatments down the line – a benefit that is already mandated in 15 states. As Dr. Elizabeth Fino, a fertility specialist at New York University, explains it: with all the money we spend on IVF each year, and multiple cycles of it, why wouldn’t healthcare companies jump on this as a way to save? And while success rates for IVF procedures vary significantly by individual, and are often low, using younger eggs can increase the chances of pregnancy.

Claire Cain Miller wonders whether free egg-freezing will allow companies to avoid implementing family-friendly policies “like paid family leave, child care and flexible work arrangements”:

[W]orkplaces could be seen as paying women to put off childbearing. Women who choose to have babies earlier could be stigmatized as uncommitted to their careers. Just as tech company benefits like free food and dry cleaning serve to keep employees at the office longer, so could egg freezing, by delaying maternity leave and child-care responsibilities.

And Nitasha Tiku compares the move to another recent corporate innovation:

Unlike unlimited vacation days, which go unused to the point where Mastercard built an ad campaign around it, I imagine most working women would exercise this option in a heartbeat because of the huge financial and personal cost of continuing to hustle, crush it, and shut up in their careers while biologically constrained. This subsidizes the cost of choosing when to prioritize having children. …

It’s too soon to tell whether female employees will feel pressured to freeze their eggs rather than take time out to have children, just like everyone feels pressured to always be on call to the office, always check email, always have a smartphone in hand. The choice is yours to decide whether or not to take those vacation days, except sometimes that choice feels like an illusion and this decision might be the hardest one working women have to make.