Facebook and Apple offer to pay female staff to freeze their eggs

woman chalkboard
woman chalkboard Photo: Getty Images

It's no secret that large corporates compete to attract and retain female talent through a multitude of incentives. And now, in what is a new and never-before-seen scheme, both Facebook and Apple look to be setting the bar ever higher.

We're not talking extra holidays, inflated bonuses or champagne lunches here. Because, in addition to all its current perks, Facebook is now offering female employees the chance to 'check in' their eggs at local fertility clinics. 

By offering an incentive of up to $20,000 for the procedure to freeze their eggs, Facebook is hoping to provide women with the freedom to build their careers without the added pressure of having children at or by a certain age.

For some women this may indeed prove very appealing. After all, the fertility rate starts to drop around the ages of 35 to 40, a period of time which very often coincides with careers that are on the rise.

This new company incentive is strongly backed by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer. Sandberg is well known for her support and encouragement of women in the workplace, and is a firm believer that children should not put limitations on a woman's career.

It's clearly an attitude that Apple agrees with. Announcing their plans to follow suit, the tech giant will commence with an identical 'egg freezing' incentive plan for both full- and part-time employees from January next year. Their motivations are the same: encourage women to stay with the company and develop their careers without the added stress of worrying about starting a family within a certain biological timeframe.

As the process can also cost thousands of dollars – both companies are setting aside $20,000 per woman for the initial egg harvesting and storage for a few years – it can also take the financial burden and stresses out of the IVF equation, leaving women with more of their salary to use as normal.

Dr David Knight, from Demeter Fertility, thinks the incentive is a positive step forward.

"One of the things that everyone is talking about at the moment in government is the lack of woman who are reaching the glass ceiling and climbing the corporate ladder, and one of the biggest reasons for this is because women leave during their younger years to have kids," says Dr Knight.

Advertisement

"To me, Facebook and Apple are saying 'we really value your input, productivity, and ability to do this as part of our company, and we want you to stay here. We want you to gain experience and grow, but we also understand that you may want to have a family, and we don't want to put that in jeopardy'."

Dr Knight believes that in offering this incentive, these organisations are not only displaying that they value their employees desires to have a family, but are also demonstrating that they are prepared to put their money where their bottom line is. 

He also views it as women being provided with a kind of insurance. If it later becomes more difficult for them to conceive, they'll have some frozen eggs already.

"I see this in many ways as women being able to have their cake and eat it," says Dr Knight. "Sure, they might be having kids later in life, but in many ways there are additional advantages to that too."

As for the question over whether fresh eggs are better than frozen, Dr Knight says, "We certainly know that using frozen eggs is now just as successful as fresh eggs. We do a lot of donor egg cycles at our clinic, and our baby rates are between 80 and 90 per cent.  Admittedly, these eggs are from young women with no medical issues, but it's still clear to see that the frozen eggs are not being compromised."

So is this something that Dr Knight envisages other companies adopting?

"I think anything that helps improve outcomes for organisations and their employees is likely to be viewed favourably. But as to whether or not others would pick it up so quickly is another issue."

Despite all this, Dr Knight is aware that he is fairly progressive in his views, and acknowledges that others may perceive this incentive as a bit weird.

'Some people may speculate that this is about large institutions wanting to have control over our reproduction, and there's always going to be that kind of societal opinion. But, to me, it's more about creating something that is the best of both worlds for companies and their employees."

"At the end of the day, the eggs remain the property of the woman to be used with whomever she chooses when she is ready, and aside from any side effects from the egg retrieval process, there really is no negative. If anything you are doing the whole thing without the emotion, because it's purely about getting the eggs out and storing them away."