Facebook and Apple reignited the whether or not women can "have it all" debate yesterday by announcing that they would pay the $10,000 price tag that comes with egg-freezing for their female employees. In fact, two of the most culturally powerful companies in the world are offering up to $20,000 for their U.S. employees to finance the procedure.
"We continue to expand our benefits for women, with a new extended maternity leave policy, along with cyro-preservation and egg storage as part of our extensive support for infertility treatments," a spokesperson for Apple stated. "We also offer an Adoption Assistance program, where Apple reimburses eligible expenses associated with the legal adoption of a child. We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families."
The move is an addition to some already great existing benefits for women: Facebook provides employees $4,000 in "baby cash," and Apple subsidizes up to $15,000 in fertility treatments.
According to Mic.com, Silicon Valley has been experimenting with an array of benefits for women with good reason -- they need to attract and retain female talent. Out of Apple's 98,000 global employees, 70 percent are male. That figure increases at leadership levels which are 72 percent male, and technical positions which are 80 percent male.
The numbers are quite similar over at Facebook where men make up 69 percent of global employees, increasing to 77 percent when it comes to the company's management and tech workers which are 85 percent male.
This move sends a powerful message to women both in and outside the tech sector. Apple and Facebook are attempting to accommodate their female employees, and in the process, they are recognizing a huge fact about employing women -- we have a biological clock. Instead of punishing women for this, which corporate America has done for decades, and to a large extent continues to, why not empower us with options?
Egg-freezing is not 100 percent successful, but it is an additional choice, and BusinessWeek's Emma Rosenblam points out that not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning:
The average age of women who freeze their eggs is about 37, down from 39 only two years ago... And fertility doctors report that more women in their early 30s are coming in for the procedure. Not only do younger women have healthier eggs, they also have more time before they have to use them... Imagine a world in which life isn't dictated by a biological clock. If a 25-year-old banks her eggs and, at 35, is up for a huge promotion, she can go for it wholeheartedly without worrying about missing out on having a baby.
Facebook and Apple, for what it is worth, are trying to help their female employees by offering them a choice. It is not perfect, it will not help all women, but it is something huge that they are trying, and for that in itself both companies should be applauded.
The reality in America today is that most working women are just trying to get the green light to work from home a certain number of hours per week, and have those hours be remotely flexible, especially when they become mothers. Most American women are just trying to get a decent maternity leave, with the U.S. being one of the few countries in the world that does not legally require paid maternity leave. The average paid time off for new moms in America is two weeks.
Sarah Buhr of TechCrunch stipulates how the Family and Medical Leave Act implemented in 1993 is scarce with benefits for moms, and many issues remain unsolved by women not having children during their working years. "They still earn 82 percent of what men typically earn, childless or not...most workplaces in the U.S. don't give women ample time to recover from childbirth," Buhr says.
To be this dismissive of the needs of half of your working population is just bad business for the American economy.
In 2014 why should women have to choose between having a career or having a baby? The answer is we shouldn't.
America, take note from these tech giants. Even if it is a baby step, everyone should start taking care of their female workforce so we can hopefully remain in the workforce, and not be forced to drop out, when and if, we choose to become mothers.
Anushay Hossain is a Bangladeshi journalist based in Washington, DC. She is the author of Anushay's Point.