As a new gambit in the so-called ‘perk arms race’ in Silicon Valley, Apple and Facebook have announced plans to pay for women to freeze their eggs so that they can delay starting a family while they focus on their careers, Sky News reports today.

Apple and Facebook hope to therefore attract more women and close the diversity gaps by covering up to $20,000 for the procedure itself and annual storage costs. Apple will start the ‘perk’ in January, while Facebook have just initiated it.

In a statement, Apple said: “We continue to expand our benefits for women, with a new extended maternity leave policy, along with cryopreservation and egg storage as part of our extensive support for infertility treatments,

“We also offer an adoption assistance program, where Apple reimburses eligible expenses associated with the legal adoption of a child.”

The workforces at many of the major companies in Silicon Valley, such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft currently have a staff ratio of around 30% women.

Tom Debenham, MD of People Insight comments: “It’s a great and practical opportunity for those that want it – providing there are no strings attached (paying back the money if you leave etc). You can’t put off a decision to start a family and then be penalised by your (ex) employer for such a decision. I’m quite sure millennials will embrace it in the spirit it is intended.

“However, it should be balanced with equally generous opportunities for those who want to start a family early.

“You can’t be sending a message to employees that the only way to progress is to freeze your eggs, work your backside off and start a family later. What if fertility isn’t the only issue? What if your family setup is great now (you have a support network eg  grandparents) but by your late 30s /early 40s your parents are dead and you are single? Doesn’t matter how many frozen eggs you have, you have potentially sacrificed your family opportunity for a career. What next – Apple provides drop in sperm donation in your lunch break?

“However with anything progressive there is always a shock factor. Middle aged people were probably as shocked when equal pay came in, whereas younger generations embraced it.”