As he did after the birth of his first child in 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking two months’ paternity leave from the company when his second daughter arrives. This time, Zuckerberg will break up the leave, spending one month at home with his children and wife Priscilla Chan right after the baby’s birth and taking the rest of the leave in December.
Zuckerberg is using only half of the four months of paid parental leave that Facebook allots male and female employees. It’s still far more time than the typical father takes off work for the birth of a child in the US, where only 15% of companies in a national survey last year offered paid paternity leave.
The lack of paid leave for men hurts parents who want to share the experience of caring for their babies, and contributes to the persistent lag in women’s wages and workforce participation. Fully paid paternity leave is key to breaking a vicious cycle in which employers pay women less and bypass them for promotions in anticipation that they’ll take time off to raise children, making the lower-earning female partner the natural choice to take unpaid or partially paid leave that’s ostensibly offered to both parents.
As Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford pointed out in a 2014 analysis of parental leave policies in Sweden and Japan, the more parental leave men take, the sooner women go back to work. A 2010 study in Sweden found that a woman’s future earnings rose 7% for every month her partner took under the country’s paid parental leave system, which incentivizes both parents to take time off. Sweden has one of the world’s highest rates of working women, and a nearly non-existent wage gap.
But it’s not enough for companies to offer paternity leave. Men have to actually take it, and this is where Zuckerberg’s decision to make his family plans public is significant. In a 2014 survey by the Working Mother Research Institute, men reported a significant gap between the availability of family-friendly, flexible working policies and the degree to which they were encouraged to take them. Those who did feel supported by their employers reported more satisfaction with the company, their careers, and their home lives.
“At Facebook, we offer four months of maternity and paternity leave because studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it’s good for the entire family,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “And I’m pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back.”
Meanwhile, there’s no better way to encourage employee behavior than to lead by example.