The best thing about Facebook’s runaway quarter and subsequent stock boost? It happened during Zuckerberg’s paternity leave
When Mark Zuckerberg announced he was taking two months paternity leave most professional news outlets applauded the move as a giant step forward in parental rights.
But there were plenty of talking heads on finance news channels and in the comments of financial blogs who called the move “irresponsible” of the CEO of such a large company.
Since a lot of this played out on live “we gotta fill 24 hours of programming” cable news, it’s hard to link to. But this was one of my favorites from a post on Seeking Alpha:
I hope I don’t have to explain to Pando readers why a father might want to spend time with his newborn and recovering wife even if he could “afford” not to.
Facebook is a large company with many managers. If the CEO stepping away for two months would have much impact at all, shareholders would have a far bigger key-man concern.
Meantime, another criticism of the move was that other dads-to-be couldn’t have the same luxury. Just as some 88% of women in this country have to return to work 10 days after giving birth. Certainly Facebook being such a large company gives Zuckerberg the luxury of taking two months that other small business CEOs wouldn’t have. I didn’t take maternity leave with my second child because Pando was only a year or so old, and I couldn’t. I’ve regretted it ever since.
While true, that’s not Zuckerberg’s fault. Criticizing him for other companies’ policies would be as crazy as criticizing the fact that Netflix’s incredibly generous parental leave isn’t extended beyond the company’s employees. Oh yeah. The press did that too.
Studies have shown that men are more likely to take parental leave if others in the company-- close friends, bosses-- do it. You could argue someone like Zuckerberg taking the leave is almost more important than setting a policy that allows new dads to do it. The fact that the company performed so well in a horrific year during that leave hopefully silences the lone critics who said it was irresponsible.
As thrilled as I am for the moves that the Valley is making towards allowing moms and dads to take leave, and normalizing the idea, one question nags at me: If Zuckerberg was a woman, would mainstream press have applauded the move quite so much? Amy Cuddy-- the woman who popularized “power posing”-- has detailed at length the double standard between working women who become mothers and working fathers who become dads. Not only do women get a motherhood “penalty,” but fathers get a “bonus.”
From her research:
[Men are] seen as heroic: a breadwinner who goes to his kid’s soccer game once in a while. But in or out of the office, working mothers experience a fair bit of hostility from people who think they should be at home with their kids. Researchers have documented thousands of cases of motherhood discrimination; a mother being laid off might hear things like, ‘I know you wanted to be at home anyway.’
The elephant in the room here is the contrast point between Marissa Mayer and Zuckerberg. Speaking as a mom who took a long maternity leave with my first child and then none with my second, I’m not judging any woman one way or another for her choices. I just hope women leading either a wildly successful or troubled public company feel like they are able to make that choice.