It’s undeniable that there is an extreme amount of misogyny and sexism in both Silicon Valley and the tech industry as a whole, which makes Apple and Facebook’s recent move to make the workplace more welcoming and accommodating for women all the more shocking.
Facebook said it will pay up to $20,000 for its female employees to freeze their eggs in a recent company e-mail. They additionally offer adoption and surrogacy assistance and wide variety of other fertility services for male and female employees.
Apple is providing a similar bundle of benefits including egg freezing and storage, extended maternity leave, adoption assistance and infertility treatments, according to USA Today.
This is quite a step forward for an industry whose attitude towards women in the workplace has been nothing short of abysmal. The new benefits might be a little intrusive and capitalistic, but the fact that any tech company is even willing to address female concerns should be hailed as progress, even if it’s in the form of golden handcuffs.
As to why these options were made, representatives from Apple said in a statement that they want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.
Allowing women to freeze their eggs and put off having a child in their early 20s, at no cost, could potentially reduce the influence that the lingering but unspoken glass ceiling still has on the industry––or at least allow women to not have to make the difficult decision of choosing between a successful career or a family.
Freezing eggs is no longer a pseudoscience either. In 2013, American Society for Reproductive Medicine officially removed the experimental label on the procedure.
The new benefit could not only allow women currently working in the field to have children at some point, but could also bring new women into a field where they are extremely underrepresented.
In 2013, women only made up 26 percent of the computing workforce, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. By comparison, women compose 50.8 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Silicon Valley fares even worse than the national average, which in 2010 had only 3 percent of venture-backed companies with all-female teams, compared to the 89 percent all-male teams, according to the Silicon Valley Index.
With giants like Apple and Facebook taking initiative in trying to level the playing field, hopefully more tech companies will do the same by providing even more comprehensive benefits.
However, their efforts should not stop here. In 2013 alone, the tech industry had a media company’s chief tech officer fired for hateful sexist musing over Twitter and multiple misogynistic apps received stage time at TechCrunch Disrupt, one of the largest startup showcases in the nation, according to NPR. One of the apps is titled “titshare,” which takes photos of the user staring at breasts.
It’s clear that the misogyny in technology is not just going to go away all on its own. There has to be a concerted effort by the entire industry to make any real change. Facebook and Apple are just the companies to start this effort.
Even if these reproductive health benefits were only inspired from the soulless calculations of a worker productivity chart, the fact that a dialogue is being created might be the greatest benefit.