CXO

Why tech offers better fertility benefits than other industries

Intel, Apple, Facebook, and Google cover employee fertility treatments such as IVF and egg freezing. Here's why they are paving the way for others.

Despite criticism over lack of gender diversity and family-friendly policies, the tech industry is far exceeding others in one area of family planning: Fertility treatments.

Technology companies offer in vitro fertilization (IVF) benefits nearly 35% higher than their peers, according to a recent report from FertilityIQ, a website aimed at assessing fertility doctors and clinics. And, six of the top 10 employers with the most generous benefits listed fell into the technology category, according to patient data.

The rankings considered the amount of money an employer provides for treatments and medications, exclusions, and clinic restrictions. The top 10 best corporate fertility packages are as follows:

1. Spotify

2. Bank of America

3. BCG

4. Intel

5. Facebook

6. Chanel

7. Conair

8. Wayfair

9. Apple

10. Google

IVF treatments cost about $23,000 per cycle, according to Jake Anderson-Bialis, co-founder of FertilityIQ. Most patients are not successful on their first try, and require two or three cycles before getting pregnant or giving up, he said. Egg freezing procedures cost about $17,000, according to FertilityIQ data.

"Who you work for really determines whether you get this paid for or not," Anderson-Bialis said. "Tech companies dramatically outperformed their peers when it comes to the generosity and broadmindedness of the benefits. It's interesting because we're accustomed to hearing about how tech companies make life difficult for family-focused employees and female employees."

Why is tech so generous when it comes to fertility benefits? The main reason is likely the current talent war for engineers and other skilled IT professionals, Anderson-Bialis said. "Anything that ingratiates a potential employee or their spouse to take a job or stay in a job, companies are desperate to do," he said.

Another reason? The age of the employee base. "Tech companies are growing up before our eyes," Anderson-Bialis said. "We're seeing these CEOs and employees come of age and go through these struggles." For example, Mark Zuckerberg is now in his thirties, and has publicly discussed how he and his wife suffered three miscarriages before having their daughter.

Technology companies are also the most inclusive in their IVF offerings, allowing employees to pursue various types of treatments with no restrictions based on their situation (such as gay couples pursuing surrogacy, or single mothers undergoing artificial insemination). Intel, Facebook, Apple, and Google are the best examples of this inclusion, the report stated.

Employers interested in offering these benefits should know there is a return on employee satisfaction, FertilityIQ found: Fertility patients reported feeling a higher degree of loyalty to their employer and stay in their jobs longer when their employer pays for their fertility treatments, the report found.

This year, Intel quadrupled fertility benefit coverage to $40,000 for medical services and $20,000 for prescription expenses. The company also removed the previous medical diagnosis requirement for fertility benefits, making conception services available to all employees, including same-sex couples. The expanded services include cryopreservation, and storage of egg, embryo, sperm, and cord blood.

"We expanded our fertility benefits in hopes of reducing the financial burden that comes with fertility procedures," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of human resources at Intel Corporation. "Knowing that the average IVF cycle costs nearly $20,000, and the likelihood of success for each cycle is around 20% to 30%, offering increased fertility benefits will help more families complete two full cycles of IVF or cryopreservation."

Intel also offers a flexible workplace, adoption benefit coverage, and childcare centers, Brown said.

Potential risks

In 2014, Facebook and Apple made waves as they became the first tech giants to offer egg freezing for female employees. But women working in tech should not rush into egg freezing or IVF options without thorough research, said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society.

"The tech industry has come under a lot of criticism for lack of diversity, including gender diversity, and they perceive this as a way to attract women," Darnovsky said. "The tech industry is also infamous for encouraging employees to work long hours, so this is a way to evade responsibility by encouraging women to put off having families until they're older, so they can lean in now."

IVF failure rates are 75% across the board, varying by age, Darnovsky said. And since the American Society for Reproductive Medicine only lifted the experimental label on egg freezing in 2012, there remains little research on long-term health risks.

Instead of offering fertility benefits like egg freezing, tech companies should look to adopt more family-friendly workplace policies for all employees, Darnovsky said. "It's a question of workplace culture," she said. "You have to give women and men more time off when they are birthing or adopting children, and create a culture in which both men and women take time off to care for infants. Those things are going to make it possible for women and men to be good parents and to do well at their jobs."

"That's what's needed, not something that's a high tech procedure being presented as a silver bullet," Darnovsky added.

For men and women in tech who do plan to take advantage of IVF and other fertility benefits, Anderson-Bialis cautions them to prepare for the process. "Working in the tech industry is a demanding field, and going through fertility treatment is a demanding process," he said. "Be realistic about how much time you'll need to go through this process, and the emotional setbacks."

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Technology companies outperform their peers when it comes to fertility treatment coverage, and offer in vitro fertilization (IVF) benefits nearly 35% higher than their peers, according to a recent report from FertilityIQ.
  2. Spotify, Intel, Facebook, Wayfair, Apple, and Google made the list of top 10 employer fertility packages.
  3. While these benefits are likely meant to attract and retain tech talent, especially women, tech workers should be cautious and research the procedures before taking advantage of them, experts said.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/g-stockstudio

About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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