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What a yolk!
24 Mar 2016
What a yolk indeed. Excuse the pun, though this was my first thought when I heard the battle for the brightest and most talented employees within Silicon Valley had intensified with both Apple and Facebook offering to freeze their female employees’ eggs.
It’s well known that these businesses offer some of the most lavish employee benefits to their people; including free lunches, dry cleaning services and babysitters. Though to date, none have been as unique, nor experienced such vitriol, as their latest perk.
In the last week the debate has raged on - is this forward-thinking or extremely misguided? Even bird watcher extraordinaire, Bill Oddie, offered his views on the subject – I guess having explored many a cold region he has seen more frozen eggs than most…
I will admit I was quick to judge, deeming the message it sends as patronising, discriminatory towards men (after all, can they freeze their sperm?) and yet another example of the tech giants controlling their people. Then I looked at the small print – Facebook introduced this benefit following requests from its workforce. Apple wish to “empower their women”.
I’ve worked within the employee engagement field for over 10 years, and time and time again have met organisations who fail to listen, act on feedback or empower their people – all of which, when done correctly, are proven to enhance engagement, satisfaction and productivity. So whilst I don’t entirely agree with the message which has been communicated (though I won’t get into a rant about that here!), I have to applause these organisations for giving their females a voice.
For some, an offer from their employer to pay for their egg freezing will be horrifying. For others, it could give them the opportunity to welcome a life into the world. A chance, for whatever reason – career, relationship status, financial - they don’t have now (though of course there is no guarantee).
And that, for me, is the crux of the matter; Apple and Facebook are giving their female employees more choice, more flexibility, more opportunity. They aren’t forcing women to freeze their eggs – instead offering to help ease the financial strain if that is a choice the woman makes. It’s just like they don’t frogmarch employees into yoga classes, chain them to their desks so they have to eat dinner there or make them take home the fresh fish delivered on campus (that’s a perk offered by Google if you’re interested…). Their benefits package recognises that people are individuals, that what makes people tick changes from person to person. And so, instead, they cater for this difference.
The question therefore becomes not about egg freezing, but how far should employers go when acting upon employee feedback. We are, after all, entering the era of the empowered employee – where talented individuals know their worth and can make, what now appears to be extremely unique requests.
So with this move, has Silicon Valley set a dangerous precedent? Will we see cosmetic surgery offered alongside pension contributions? Fertility clinics next to on-site creches? Sperm banks beside cash points?
What do you think?
* This blog originally featured online at www.huffingtonpost.co.uk