The cover of an April 2014 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine was emblazoned with the headline “Freeze Your Eggs, Free Your Career.” Apple has taken this message to heart, as the company recently announced that it would be following in the footsteps of Facebook by offering a new benefit for their female employees: egg freezing. Beginning in January, Apple will offer their female employees up to $20,000 of coverage to freeze their eggs, enough for two rounds of harvesting per employee.
Many applaud this announcement as a step forward for working women who want to control when they start a family, while others insist that this is a blatant attempt to force women to work harder in their careers without the burden of child rearing. Those opposed to the coverage note that tech industry is roughly 70% male, and many worry the option of egg freezing will incentivize women to work harder to compete with the men. A 2013 New York University study of 183 women who’d frozen their eggs revealed that 19 percent of those women said they might have had a child earlier if their workplace had been more flexible.
Though opponents worry that these tech companies are using the benefit as a way to force women to work longer, the decision to freeze eggs is not one that women will take lightly. The process is invasive and can take at least several weeks. Women must take hormone injections to stimulate egg production and undergo an extraction under sedation. Doctors often recommend that women go through multiple rounds of egg harvesting to increase the changes of a viable egg.
The decision of Apple and Facebook to cover egg freezing gives women a choice and a backup plan. The process is neither simple nor risk free, and should involve consultations with various professionals regarding the risks and benefits. This coverage allows working women to have another choice about when the right time is to start a family.
While we are supportive of steps being taken by companies to provide benefits related to family formation through assisted reproductive technology, we are mindful that women have more pressure than ever to lean in and “have it all.” Egg freezing is an important option, but not the right option for every woman.