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Apple to pay female employees up to $20,000 for new egg freezing fertility benefit

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Female employees working at Apple will soon be offered a fertility benefit of up to $20,000 to put toward freezing their eggs, which advocates say gives women the freedom to seek career advancement without worrying about future family plans.

Apple's program, which starts in January, will join a similar initiative already in operation at fellow tech giant Facebook, reports NBC News. The two companies are thought to be the first major corporations to offer such benefits packages for non-medical reasons.

Both perks offer up to $20,000 for egg-freezing procedures, but Apple will mark the cost as a fertility benefit, while Facebook classifies the money as a surrogacy benefit. In either case, advocates say egg freezing allows women to "level the playing field" with men by relieving pressure put on by a constantly ticking biological clock.

According to San Francisco-based fertility specialist Philip Chenette, Apple and Facebook's new female-focused coverage can be thought of as "payback" for commitment in the work place, where some women may forego a family life in search of career mobility.

Egg freezing is an expensive procedure that, on average, costs around $10,000 per round. Many doctors recommend storing 20 eggs, which means two rounds of harvesting, plus an extra $500 per year for storage.

The move appears to be a step toward gender equality. Silicon Valley companies are being criticized for their lack of diversity, especially when it comes to women in executive positions. The industry, including Apple, is largely composed of white males, though steps are being taken to rectify the so-called "gender gap."

Most recently, Apple joined a host of big-name tech firms at this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in hopes of recruiting female students looking to get into the industry.

Apple's new fertility perk may give it an extra edge in wooing top female talent and keeping current employees on board for longer periods.