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Mark Zuckerberg Is Becoming a Father. Will He Take Paternity Leave?

Zuckerberg's decision will likely set a Silicon Valley precedent.

Mark Zuckerberg/ Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan are having a baby — and they’re (obviously) excited about it.

In October, he talked publicly about wanting to share special baby moments though virtual reality. On Wednesday, he shared a pregnancy photo to his profile for the first time.

Which means Zuckerberg may soon have an announcement to make: What he plans to do about Facebook’s four months of paid parental leave.

That might seem like a strictly personal matter — and for most people, it would be. But Mark Zuckerberg isn’t most people. There are the business implications, of course. How long can the CEO of a near $300 billion market cap company be away from the office before there is some impact on the business? But Facebook has proven executive leaders in COO Sheryl Sanderg and head of product Chris Cox; I can’t imagine any reasonable length of time away would pose a serious threat to Facebook’s long-term health.

More important about this decision is the precedent and example Zuckerberg will be setting for new fathers everywhere, especially in tech. The last time parental leave really caught everyone’s attention in the tech world was in 2012, when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took just two weeks off after the birth of her son. At the time, she was criticized for setting a bad example for other executives — specifically female executives — by not taking the company’s full, allotted parental leave. Her actions certainly didn’t support the notion that work-life balance is important, critics claimed. (Which, to be fair, is probably a ridiculous concept for the types of people who end up running large, publicly traded companies.)

But Zuckerberg’s decision to leave or not to leave is likely to have a similar impact. Paid parental leave is on the rise, with companies like Netflix and Adobe recently expanding their paid leave packages to employees. The importance of family time is gaining steam in Silicon Valley. Sandberg, for instance, wrote in her book “Lean In” that she often leaves the office at 5:30 to spend time with her family.

Right now, the company isn’t planning to share Zuckerberg’s parental leave decision, according to a spokesperson. New parents at Facebook are allowed to take their leave in small increments for up to a year after the baby is born, so it’s possible Zuckerberg may just take off for short periods over a longer span of time. But you can bet that, given his role, people will be paying attention.

Which sets the stage for Zuckerberg, arguably the Valley’s most well-known figure, to once again lead by example. As though new parenthood weren’t stressful enough …

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