In stark contrast to some US companies still searching for loopholes that will allow them to wriggle out of paid maternity leave, in 2014 Facebook has become the first American company to offer social egg freezing as part of its family-planning benefits. Others have since followed, creating one of the hottest trends amongst tech companies.
Apple, Google, Yahoo, Intel, eBay, LinkedIn and even Uber, alongside several others, are now providing employees with fertility coverage as well. And it’s not limited to just oocyte cryopreservation. Depending on the company, additional reproductive treatments (including paid surrogacy) and even adoption assistance, may also be covered. For example, Yahoo’s benefits cover a wide range of fertility preservation treatments, including freezing, storage and subsequent thawing of eggs, sperm and embryos. Adoption assistance is also available.
The Rise of “Boutique” Start-Ups
The trend has led to a rise of “boutique” fertility start-ups aimed at millennials. As opposed to “traditional” centers, which treat infertility, these emphasise the social aspect: giving women control over their biological clocks. The term “social egg freezing” refers to young women (usually under 35) cryopreserving their oocytes in order to be able to achieve pregnancy at a later age, when natural conception may not be possible due to decrease in both number and quality of their oocytes. According to a 2013 survey, roughly four fifths of “social freezers” did so due to lack of a partner. The remaining 20% cited career-related issues.
But not everyone is happy with the new benefits. Critics claim they’re a tactic to get women to focus on their careers (thus benefitting the companies) over starting a family. They instead call for employers to provide better work-life balance and invest in childcare. To underline this point, they mention Apple’s new $5 billion 175-acre campus, which is suspiciously missing an on-site nursery.