Apple has been in the news a lot lately with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Now, the tech giant is also making headlines for something other than its latest products: the company has announced that it will be joining Facebook in offering coverage of elective egg-freezing costs for female employees. Facebook has had this policy in place since early this year; Apple now intends to implement the same policy in 2015.

 

While the decision may expand reproductive options for women and have a beneficial impact on professional growth and freedom as a result, there is another side to the policy; one which cannot be seen as quite so progressive. The reality is that in offering this kind of coverage for female employees, what companies like Apple and Facebook may really be doing is harming how we as a society view motherhood, women in the workplace, and female status in male-dominated fields, like technology.

 

Apple plans to implement egg-freezing coverage beginning next year (itproportal.com)

Apple plans to implement egg-freezing coverage beginning next year (itproportal.com)

For starters, while the decision outwardly appears to be an effort to cater to women’s unique needs as they relate to their careers, it seems to have more to do with looking out for these companies’ interests. By giving women the option to put off starting a family in order to invest their time first and foremost in their careers without worrying about the ticking of their biological clocks, Apple and Facebook are really giving themselves a way of hanging on to talented female employees without worrying about the risk of losing them to familial obligations. It is a way for these companies to ensure that they remain the first priority for women, and that potential conflicting interests — i.e. children — can be less of an issue during prime professional years.

 

This concept seems especially legitimate in light of the fact that these companies are investing more heavily in this effort to delay motherhood than they have in efforts to allow employees who already are mothers to better manage motherhood and a career concurrently. This is not to say that they have entirely neglected female employees with children, and both companies have expanded on policies, such as maternity leave, with Apple offering 18-weeks paid leave and Facebook offering 17 weeks.

 

However, there are still major improvements which can be made in terms of things like flexible schedules, telecommuting options, and childcare, the last of which is especially interesting considering that just last year, Facebook invested $120 million into a compound with a number of amenities meant to cater to its employees’ needs — amenities which included doggy daycare but no childcare.

 

Egg-freezing coverage may further marginalize female employees who are mothers in an male-dominated industry (blogs.nytimes.com)

Egg-freezing coverage may further marginalize female employees who are mothers in a male-dominated industry (blogs.nytimes.com)

Offering egg-freezing coverage may also put unfair pressure on women who would not otherwise want to delay motherhood. By giving women a way to dedicate themselves solely to work during ideal reproductive years without actually eliminating the chances of someday having children (although even this may foster dangerous confidence since egg-freezing in no way guarantees successful reproduction in the future), this measure may come to perpetuate already flawed attitudes toward women in the male-dominated technology industry, if women still opt to start families in the middle of their careers. An effect of an attitude like this can be a tacit byproduct of the unavoidable shift in mentality around any cultural concept (e.g. priorities regarding career and motherhood) that occurs when something as dramatic as this healthcare policy gets introduced.

 

Ultimately, it seems that while egg-freezing coverage may seemingly be an advancement in terms of how companies’ benefits and healthcare packages can cater to women, it is simultaneously an unfortunate regression in how we see women in the workplace. This attitude echos everything that is wrong with the age old debate on how women, as mothers, can fit — or rather, can’t fit — into the professional sphere. It is a continuing reminder of the dogmatic, archaic notion that motherhood and a career are mutually exclusive.

 

What are your thoughts on offering coverage of elective egg-freezing for female employees? Share in the comments below or tweet me @tamarahoumi