Mark Zuckerberg's Two-Month Paternity Leave Is A Big Deal

Photo: REX Shutterstock
In a Facebook post on Friday, Mark Zuckerberg announced he will be taking a two-month paternity leave when his daughter is born.

Zuckerberg has been notably open about his wife Priscilla Chan's path toward parenting, sharing their pregnancy news as well as accounts of their heart-wrenching miscarriages. And ever since the Facebook founder and CEO made his future fatherhood known, speculation has simmered about whether he would take time off to tend to dad duties, and if so, how much. After all, Facebook offers employees up to four months of parental leave during the first year.

Describing his paternity leave plan as "a very personal decision," Zuckberg wrote: "Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families."

Arguably, when male CEOs of major companies, like Facebook, take a significant paternity leave, outcomes are better for new dads at large. Increasingly, tech companies have touted paid parental leave benefits to new moms and dads alike. On Thursday, Spotify announced a hefty six-month paid parental leave policy for all employees. Those scientifically backed policies also insinuate a shift in corporate culture away from parental leave applying only to women and penalties against those who take full advantage of the family enriching perk.

The overwhelming praise and support received by Zuckerberg also demonstrates a gender difference in how expectant moms and dads are treated professionally — not to mention publicly. Just ask Zuck's fellow Silicon Valley CEO Marissa Mayer. When the pregnant Yahoo! chief announced she would be taking two weeks of maternity leave in a September post on Tumblr, many criticized her for setting a poor example for working mothers, who often feel pressured to get back on the job as soon as possible after giving birth.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki's recent pregnancy was similarly scrutinized, although unlike Mayer, she didn't go public with the length of her maternity leave. Instead, she pivoted attention to paid maternity leave at large, championing it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed as "good for mothers, families and business."

While Zuckerberg's paternity leave won't magically resolve America's parental leave issues, he's commendably leading the charge by example. Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, who has become a leader in women's workplace issues, definitely liked it. In a comment on Zuckerberg's announcement post, Sandberg wrote, "I’m so excited for both of you. Enjoy the precious early months with your daughter — I can’t wait to meet her."
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