Sun is the CEO and cofounder of Carrot, a company based in San Francisco, CA that specializes in customized fertility benefits. In May, her company conducted a survey that revealed that attitudes around fertility are changing–more than 50 percent of millennials now believe fertility coverage should be an equal part of healthcare benefits.
Why is demand increasing?
One reason why millennials might want their companies to offer fertility benefits is that they are having their first child later in life when compared to previous generations, according to 2018 Pew Research data. Because the risk of complications and birth defects ticks up with maternal age, procedures like freezing eggs and sperm or fetal testing might seem more sensible.
But then why have kids later rather than sooner? A 2014 Time article noted the growing trend for women to have children after age 35, suggesting that the desire to prioritize careers over family comes into play. That desire reflects shifting mindsets about gender roles, but some parents might want to wait for economic reasons, too. With general costs like rent soaring, and with millennials often shouldered with more financial responsibilities (e.g, taking care of aging parents and student debt), having children early without first gaining some monetary security might seem impossible to some individuals. A 2015 article for The Guardian highlights this dilemma and demonstrates that the problem isn’t exclusive to the United States.
But then again, culture isn’t just changing its mind about what women can and cannot do. We’ve also redefined what “family” even is. With the legalization of same-sex marriages, fertility benefits don’t just recognize medical and financial realities. They also reflect an acknowledgment that all types of couples can parent successfully and should have the same opportunities to do so that traditional couples do. If companies want to attract workers with these types of more progressive beliefs, adding fertility benefits could be a proactive way of essentially saying, “I see and support you”.
Cryptocurrency exchange company Coinbase is vocal about its desire to use fertility benefits as a way to foster diversity. Nat McGrath, Coinbase VP of People, asserts that such team diversity helps the company make better decisions, serve the community under a global lens and drive innovation.
“It’s easy to scale software infrastructure,” McGrath says. “It’s much harder to scale people. […] We want employees to feel confident that, as they build their careers in crypto, they can also nurture and grow their families–regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status or anything else.”
Some good leaders are out there, but there’s still room to develop
As FertilityIQ cofounder Jake Anderson-Bialis outlines in his article for LinkedIn, data suggests that offering fertility options like IVF has the potential to affect the bottom line, connecting to greater employee retention and loyalty. And as you might expect, 2016-2017 rankings show that big players from a range of industries–for example, Bank of America, Boston Consulting Group, Chanel, Spotify, Johnson & Johnson and Conair–are doing fertility benefits well. Many of these companies are distinct in that they don’t cap the cost of treatment.
But if you have to point to one industry as a “winner”, then tech companies generally do a great job under Anderson-Bialis’ assessment. For instance, companies like Google, Intel and Facebook don’t restrict benefits based on who you are (e.g., gay, single, etc.).
But ranking high doesn’t mean these companies have all the kinks worked out. For example, Google and Facebook don’t let you choose which clinic you’ll use, and some companies, like Bank of America, reportedly force some employees in particular groups to prove they are infertile before they can use their perk. It likely will take both employee vocalization and additional regulations to eliminate these types of discrepancies.
What the future of work might look like
Right now, work can be…well, a downer. There’s incredible cultural pressure to work long hours and, despite an emphasis on health and wellbeing, to simply accept exhaustion as “the way to success”. Many companies still want employees who can come into the office no strings attached, and the worst still find ways to discriminate against parents or those who are expecting.
But if fertility benefits become standard practice as a way to attract talent and innovate, pretty soon, employers who haven’t done so already are going to have to face the music. There will be more workers with kids, and there will be a shortage of the “ideal” candidate who is free to “live” at the office. That very well might be the tipping point where we change our expectations and finally acknowledge that 24/7 and a lack of connection doesn’t work so well after all.