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Why Mark Zuckerberg’s Paternity-Leave Announcement Is Such A Big Deal

Facebook already had a father-friendly leave policy, but when the CEO takes two months off, it sends a strong message about the culture.

Why Mark Zuckerberg’s Paternity-Leave Announcement Is Such A Big Deal
[Photo: Flickr user Bridget Coila; App Photo: courtesy of Facebook]

At the end of a year packed with “My Parental Leave Policy Is Cooler Than Your Parental Leave Policy” salvos from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, and Spotify, the biggest news of them all just dropped from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: He’s taking two months of paternity leave when his first child is born a few months from now.

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Facebook didn’t need to make any changes to their existing policy to get into the conversation—with 17 weeks of paid leave for new dads, the company ranks second on Fatherly‘s list of 50 Best Places to Work for New Dads. Zuck’s “very personal decision,” which he announced on his own page over the weekend, is important for very different reasons than corporate announcements that preceded it. Namely, studies show that, even when companies do the right thing by providing their employees paid leave, very few of them actually take it.

For example, take this 2012 study of tenured professors that showed only 12% of them took paid paternity leave when it was offered to them. Last year, the New York Times tackled the cultural stigma associated with fathers who take more than one week off when their kid is born—a stigma that played out for the whole world to see when New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was publicly filleted for missing the first two games of the 2014 season to be there for the birth of his daughter.

The announcement from the head of a company worth $302 billion matters, because it shows that guys can maintain big, demanding positions at important companies and still be engaged fathers and husbands. It also shows that one of the most influential CEOs on the planet understands that dads taking leave has a positive impact on everything from postpartum depression to the gender wage gap.

You know who probably knows all this even better than Zuck? Daniel Murphy, whose record-setting home-run streak in the 2015 playoffs was no doubt directly related to being there for his wife and kid last year—he just needed those 18 months to get back on a normal sleep schedule.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly and is reprinted with permission.

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