Fertility coverage, aka “egg freezing,” has been hailed as the latest breakthrough benefit for women to break through Wall Street’s very thick glass ceiling.
With egg freezing, mommy leave can be delayed until women have established a solid career, as many successful women working in banking and trading will attest. Wall Street gets to retain a more diverse talent pool that would otherwise migrate to the green pastures of tech, which began offering such benefits about a decade ago.
Win-win, right? Seems that way, but recently, a counter-narrative has begun to emerge that egg freezing isn’t such a great perk after all. Rather, this narrative suggests, it’s a subtle form of corporate coercion placed upon young women who may have concerns about the not-insignificant health risks involved or have religious objections. They feel compelled to freeze their eggs and put off pregnancy to demonstrate their fealty to their job and the organization in hopes of advancing up the corporate ladder.
I’m not saying I ascribe truth to these sinister motives but it is something that some young women working at major investment banks have been discussing and lamenting. Recently through a banking source, I heard the story of a 26-year-old woman executive at Morgan Stanley who believes there is pressure on young women like herself to freeze their eggs if they want to advance.
As she described it, the firm will pay $1,200 for women to freeze their eggs for one year (not the best coverage on the Street for something that can cost tens of thousands of dollars); after that, the employee kicks in $100 a month. The real benefit, however, is how going through with the procedure (again, not without possible complications) demonstrates organizational loyalty.
“Everybody knows this is what you need to do to show management you are committed to the company and that you will push off having a family many years down the road,” she said.
A 30-year-old associate at Bank of America echoed those sentiments: “There’s definitely a silent pressure coming from management.”
A spokesman for Morgan Stanley, who wouldn’t deny the specifics of its benefits, said: “When it comes to family, we offer comprehensive employee benefits in a range of areas . . . Our family-building benefit recognizes that families are formed in many ways, and assists employees with the cost of adoption, surrogacy and fertility treatments.”
Bank of America had no comment.
OK, I’m no expert on the broad subject of corporate maternity benefits, but like any good reporter, some of my sources are. These are women who worked their way through the male-dominated cultures of the big banks and have the battle scars to prove their success. Here’s what they will say: First, any manager getting directly involved in knowing who is freezing their eggs is treading on some shaky HR and legal ground.
“It’s actually not legal for a boss or management to inquire about who is participating” in egg freezing, one former female managing director at a major bank and asset manager told me. But this person added: “Some women, in particular younger women, are feeling the coercive vibe even if it’s more of a perception than a reality.”
I see both sides of the egg-freezing debate. In the past, medical-coverage plans by the big firms offered egg freezing only if it was needed following cancer treatments. More recently, banks came to realize it’s good for business to have talented women in top positions while fulfilling their desires to be moms.
That’s why BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, provides all female employees $20,000 to freeze their eggs. Goldman Sachs and many other firms now do the same.
“Overall, egg freezing sounds like a constructive and positive thing that gives women more optionality to stay in roles longer; it’s harder to find women in senior management roles,” Gary Goldstein, CEO of the Whitney Group, an executive search firm, told Fox Business’s Eleanor Terrett. “It can certainly have negative, perhaps unintended consequences if women feel like they have to go through this process in order to move up.”
Bud’s trans aftertaste
The dust hasn’t totally settled on the controversial Bud Light-Dylan Mulvaney ads, but now three weeks in, there have been some predictable reactions.
Many lefty media types loved it and accused conservatives of freaking out over nothing. Conservatives bemoaned it as a further degradation of cultural norms. Inside Anheuser-Busch, Bud’s parent company, executives are debating whether a promo of a trans woman in a bubble bath sipping beer is a smart business move.
On the positive side: A-B shares have recovered after their initial sell-off. There’s also a case to be made that any publicity is good publicity; Bud is a declining brand that hasn’t gotten this much attention since the early days of Spuds MacKenzie.
But stock prices in the short term should never be a barometer of long-term value — and there are real long-term questions about Bud and Anheuser-Busch. Like whether the company dissed too many of its right-leaning customers, as most beer drinkers tend to be.
A-B is owned by a company known as InBev with Belgian-Brazilian roots. It’s controlled in part by a private equity outfit named 3G Capital. I’m not sure how much beer the dudes at 3G like to consume or whether they have a clue about the beer-drinking demo, but they haven’t been able to reverse the secular trend of declining Bud sales since taking control about 15 years ago.
They’re also known as almost masochistic cost-cutters who love to squeeze fat out of their portfolio companies and even some bones.
Sources tell me some smart marketing people got caught up in this cost-cutting, and that’s how we got Dylan Mulvaney in a bubble bath with a can of Bud Light.
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