Apple Inc. is following Facebook Inc. by offering company insurance coverage to women who wish to freeze their eggs.

Facebook started providing the benefit, which applies to employees and their spouses or domestic partners, in January. The Menlo Park, California-based social network offers full coverage, or as much as $20,000 in expenses, related to the procedure, which could include surrogacy or court fees.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said it will start offering similar coverage next year. In a statement, Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said the iPhone maker wants to “empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.”

The decisions come amid a debate about the best ways to recruit and retain women in the technology industry, where women are underrepresented as a percentage of the total workforce. Apple and Facebook are among the first companies to offer an option to freeze eggs.

The developments, which were reported earlier this week by NBC, also sparked a debate on social media about whether the benefit would pressure women to undergo an invasive procedure to delay childbirth in favor of their careers.

“Is an employer paying to freeze a woman’s eggs empowering or suggesting motherhood and a career are incompatible?” wrote Miranda Dawn, a songwriter, on Twitter yesterday.

Gawker Inc.’s Valleywag blog jumped in with a post entitled, “Facebook and Apple Offer Egg-Freezing Perk so Women Never Stop Working.”

In response to the debate, Facebook spokeswoman Genevieve Grdina said the company also offers other benefits to make the transition to parenthood easier whenever an employee is ready, such as nursing rooms on campus and subsidized day care. When a baby is born or adopted, a mother or father gets four months of paid parental leave and $4,000 in “baby cash.”