Facebook has started offering female staff up to $20,000 to have their eggs frozen and Apple will pay for its female employees to go through the same process from January
Apple and Facebook have upped the ante in their battle for the best talent by offering to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs.
Facebook has started offering female staff up to $20,000 (£12, 570) for so-called ocyte-cryopreservation, so that they can delay having children until later in their careers. The process typically costs between $10,000 and $15,000, plus an additional $1,000-a-year to keep the harvested eggs on ice.
The social network is also offering help to men who want to become parents. All staff will be entitled to help with adopting, and a “host of other fertility services”, the company said.
Meanwhile, Apple has said it plans to start paying for egg freezing from January.
Both companies hope that the move will help them to attract more female staff, and retain them for longer by reducing the pressure on them to have children before a particular age.
Women’s fertility goes into steady decline after the age of 35, and falls even more rapidly after 40 – around the age when many professional women are hitting their stride. Instead of progressing up the ladder to senior positions, many women having children end up dropping out of the workforce, leading to a loss of experienced talent.
The offer to help female executives to free their eggs will also help to mark Apple and Facebook out from much of the rest of the technology sector, which is dominated by male executives. Last week, Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, angered men and women around the world when he said that female staff should rely on ‘karma’ rather than asking for a pay rise.
He has since retracted his comment, but Microsoft still faces an uphill battle to convince female executive that it is a good place for them to work.
Meanwhile, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, has long been an advocate of gender quality in the work place. In her book, Lean In, she repeatedly urged women not to limit their career choices to fit around children, but to be as ambitious as they can.
Facebook’s egg freezing policy is designed to give them more freedom to do just that. However, it is likely to come in for criticism from traditionalists who believe that women should have children when they are still relatively young, rather than trying to fit them around their work. Critics are also likely to raise fears about the unintended consequences of the scheme, which could place additional pressure on female executives to delay motherhood until later on in their careers.
Ms Sandberg, 45, has two children of her own. Both she and her husband leave work at 5.30pm every day to see them.