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Supporting Women in the Workforce: Fertility Insurance

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in senior management roles in many industries. Despite great strides in educational equality in science and technology over the last two decades, the overwhelming majority of executives in high-tech, finance, law and other high-paying industries are men. It’s a problem not only for these companies, but for society at large. That’s why just about every forward-looking company is going out of its way to attract female candidates and keep women on staff once they join.


Offering a job with a good salary isn’t enough though.

This is where unique benefit packages can help an employer stand out from the crowd and become a destination of choice for women. And for many, especially those who delay having children to focus on their careers, coverage for fertility treatments isn’t just a luxury.

Let’s start by looking at the numbers. Though women earned more doctoral degrees than men in the U.S. in 2017 — 53% versus 47% — only 30% of college presidents in the U.S. are women. According to a recent report, for every 100 men promoted to a managerial position, only 85 women were promoted. Because of this imbalance, at the beginning of 2020, women remained severely underrepresented in entry-level management positions, with women holding 38% of manager-level positions and men holding 62%. That’s why states are enacting measures to promote gender inclusiveness at the highest levels. As of last year, all California public companies need to have at least one female board member. That may not sound like a big deal until you consider that as of last year more than 300 companies in the Russell 3000 Index still did not have any women on their boards.

These statistics reveal that top companies have a lot of work to do when it comes to gender inclusiveness, and that’s why major enterprises are doing everything possible to attract and retain women in senior-level roles. It starts with pay equity, but other factors, tangible and intangible, can make a major difference in an organization’s reputation as a good place to work. Companies that are known for not taking sexual harassment seriously will find themselves at a disadvantage when prospective employees weigh their choices. Companies also have to be perceived as family friendly. This is where offering a full range of fertility treatments coverage as part of benefits packages can make a difference.

Unfortunately, biology doesn’t stop for career promotions. That’s why so many women make the decision to have children even though they know that it will have serious effects on their future employment prospects. But in many cases, women delay having their first child so that they can maximize their professional experience and earning potential. Consider the fact that birth rates in the U.S. were at a record low in 2018 for women under the age of 30. This presents a challenge to those wanting to start their families after 30, as fertility declines during this time, especially after the age of 35. As such, medical treatments may be required to improve the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Taking time out of one’s career to have a child is hard enough, but the addition of fertility challenges can significantly exacerbate the situation. Not only is it emotionally devastating for many women, but the cost of fertility treatments can be prohibitive. Standard benefits packages typically only cover areas such as childbirth and prenatal care, but not infertility — even though 1 in 8 Americans are diagnosed as being infertile. This is an opportunity for companies to offer fertility treatments coverage as part of their corporate insurance packages and show their female employees that this is a priority for them.

It’s not just about promoting diversity and promoting social equality. In fact, offering these kinds of benefits can actually generate more money for companies. According to Gartner, companies with a culture of inclusion had 2.3 times more cash flow per employee and generated 1.4 times more revenue. There are also benefits to employee loyalty, productivity and overall satisfaction. When people have access to fertility benefits in the workplace, they express a 1.5 times greater feeling of work satisfaction. They are also 2.5 times less likely to miss work and are more productive. 

What is important to remember is that fertility treatments aren’t just for married heterosexual women, or even just for women at all. In approximately 15% of couples who are infertile, a male factor, such as low sperm count, is the only cause, and a male partner contributes to infertility 40% of the time. While IVF and other treatments are much more time-consuming and expensive, treating male infertility is also beneficial for companies that want to attract and retain male employees. It’s also important to remember that women in same-sex relationships and single women (not to mention single men) often decide to have children. For these individuals, fertility coverage is critical because standard means of conception are more challenging.

There are a lot of factors that determine whether or not a company is considered a great place to work. We often think of perks like free lunches or on-site car washes as the kinds of things that attract workers. While they certainly do play a part in making work more enjoyable and less stressful, it is the less visible offerings that can truly distinguish companies from the rest of the pack. Taking gender equality seriously is one of them. This can take a lot of forms, but what matters is that women need to feel welcome, included and valued.

By offering the kind of benefits that matter most to women in the workforce, companies can overcome the barriers to diversity and inclusiveness that can hinder an organization’s ability to succeed and thrive in the long term.

About the Author

Dr. G. David Adamson MD, FRCSC, FACOG, FACS, is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of ARC Fertility. He is a globally recognized reproductive endocrinologist and surgeon, and is a Clinical Professor, ACF at Stanford University, and Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF.

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