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December 11, 2015

What could Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take paternity leave mean for ordinary workers?

On November 20, 2015 Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced he would take two months off after the birth of his first child.

Explaining his decision, Zuckerberg referred to research that shows that outcomes are better for children and their families when working parents take time out to be with their newborns. He also noted that Facebook offers its US employees up to four months of paid maternity or paternity leave—an unusually generous allowance in the US labor market.

There is obviously a growing demand for paid paternity leave, particularly as families continue to adapt to the fact that most parents now work, and men report as much stress over work–life balance as women do. In California—the first US state to offer government-supported paternity leave—fathers were 46% more likely to take leave in the first year after their children were born when the option was made available, especially first-time fathers and those working in jobs where parental leave was more common.

Nina Smith broaches the division of family responsibilities in her IZA World of Labor paper on gender quotas on boards of directors. She feels that policymakers should focus on “getting a more balanced gender division of careers within the family, for instance by encouraging more fathers to take advantage of parental leave schemes” in order to improve the gender balance in organizations, specifically at board level.

Hopefully, prominent examples like Mark Zuckerberg, will change attitudes to parental leave for the benefit of all.

Related articles:
Gender quotas on boards of directors, by Nina Smith
My husband and I were equal partners—then we had a baby, by Brigid Schulte