Sick of Tech’s Gender Gap? Start with Committed Dads
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, recently shared a very personal Facebook post in which he revealed that he and his wife Priscilla Chan are expecting a baby girl. He also candidly shared that the couple experienced three miscarriages while trying to conceive. Mark has since been widely applauded for trying to destigmatize the traumatic and lonely experience of coping with miscarriages. In my view, Mark's post has also accomplished much more.
A Team for Work & Life
My favorite part of Mark’s post was his use of the pronoun “we” and its derivatives such as “us” and “our”. Mark’s word choices highlight that childbearing and child raising require team work. And that issues related to all stages of childbearing and child raising should be shared by both partners.
Expecting and planning a child is not just a woman’s issue. Mark clearly wanted and celebrated this child and enthusiastically shared “we’re expecting a baby girl!” Mark makes the process of trying to conceive personal, candidly sharing how he would plan and hope for their unborn child’s future. From the beginning, Mark is showing commitment.
Heal and Grow Together
Miscarriage is not just a woman's issue. According to Mark, he and his wife had “been trying to have a child for a couple of years and have had three miscarriages along the way.” Mark gave a glimpse into a private struggle and the scars the miscarriages have left on him and his wife. Even though miscarriages are fairly common, they are stigmatized. Mark notes this, calling it “a lonely experience.” For women without a committed partner, a miscarriage can be even more isolating. Mark’s post highlights that both parents are affected by and should be involved in healing from a miscarriage.
Pregnancy is not just a woman’s issue. Mark seems invested in the pregnancy, joyfully sharing: “Our good news is that our pregnancy is now far enough along that the risk of loss is very low and we are very hopeful.” He even describes the ultrasound and seems very concerned with Priscilla’s and the child’s health. This early commitment is important. Even though the woman is the one physically carrying the child, in a committed partnership, it’s not “her pregnancy,” but “our pregnancy”.
Father, and Entrepreneur
Finally, raising a child is not just a woman’s issue. Mark is eager to finally be a dad, sharing: “We’re looking forward to welcoming her into the world.” Though the post doesn’t explicitly state the couple’s plans, the wording implies that Mark will be raising baby Zuckerberg hands-on, not relegating all or even most parenting duties to his wife. Priscilla, a doctor and educator, will need him to be committed to make it all work. While she could certainly afford to, Mark’s public commitment to raising their daughter will ensure that Priscilla wouldn’t have to leave her career in other to “focus on motherhood”.
Mark’s candid discussion of his early commitment to fatherhood could set a trend in the tech industry. In his post, Mark astutely observes: "In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.” While Mark was referring to issues of miscarriage and infertility, this could also apply to hopes of ending the gender gap. Discussing the importance of parenting as a team can help this goal.
Seeing a high-profile man in the male-dominated tech industry lead by example can also help, and I hope Mark continues this. For example, I hope Mark continues sharing pictures of his child to show other men it’s acceptable to take time off and enjoy being dads even as they pursue demanding careers. I would also like to see Mark take at least three months off work to bond with his daughter when she arrives and support his wife’s professional aspirations if that's what she chooses.
Making the time-consuming, difficult issues of childbearing and child raising part of both partners' realities is a first step toward solving the gender gap in tech. After all, based on my personal experiences as a professional woman in tech and a mother of two, childbearing and child raising are more realistic and fun when your partner is equally committed.
Originally published on Startup Grind, the global startup community.