Mark Zuckerberg – Domesticated Daddy

If you haven’t seen it, you really must. A photo of Facebook icon Mark Zuckerberg cradling his newborn baby daughter, wife gazing adoringly alongside, a rhapsodic shot of domestic bliss!

In addition to posing for this perfect picture, Zuckerberg commemorated daughter Maxima’s birth by sending her an open letter, in which he announced that during their lives he and his wife, Pricilla Chan, would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charity. The shares are currently worth more than $45 billion.

Zuckerberg further revealed that he would be taking paternity leave. Not just a week or two away from his desk, to hang with wife and child. No, fully two months, which is half of what Facebook now gives any parent, male or female, who wants to take time off during a child’s first year.

The big story is that Silicon Valley’s most successful and recognizable CEO made a big story out of his child’s birth. At a time when the number of men taking more than a week away from work after a child is born remains woefully low, Zuckerberg chose to send several messages. First, that parenthood is important. Second, that parenthood is important for men as well as women. And third, that he intended not only to play an active role in his own daughter’s life, but simultaneously to make clear that his company supports such parental involvement for all its employees. (Note: Feminist activist Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s COO.)

If truth be told, though, Zuckerberg is not a pathbreaker – not on this front. Tech companies have recently been joined by Wall Street firms, all competing furiously for talent, all now acknowledging that young professionals are more determined than were their predecessors to achieve a semblance of a work/life balance. Amazon, Accenture, Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley are just some of the companies that recently enhanced benefits to new parents – benefits ranging from more time off for primary caregivers, to more time off for secondary caregivers, to paying for (selected) employees who choose during baby’s first year to bring them and even their nannies along on business trips.

Whether these more generous company policies will dramatically change the equation – in particular whether they will encourage more women to take top leadership jobs – remains to be seen. I obviously have my doubts.* Still, Zuckerberg as doting dad is a welcome sign of the times.

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*See my recent posts on this subject, such as “Leadership and Lactation.”

Note: This is my last post until on or about December 20th.  

 

 

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