Mark Zuckerberg is going to become a father in some months, as his wife, Priscilla Chan, is going to give birth to their daughter. Some days ago, the founder of Facebook announced, via his account on the popular social platform, that after the birth of his child he will take 2 months parental leave. This fact was enough to bring again on the public speech the issue of the equality of the gender in leave taking when there is a newborn baby.

Today, numerous studies have proved that the presence of the father close to the new family member, during the first months of his/her life, brings positive results not only for him and his wife but also for the future development of the child.

Despite all these, only 9% of the American companies allows men to take a leave longer that two weeks, while the situation is similar in most of the countries, where a father leave is provided.

According to the International Labor Organisation, 90% of young fathers, who stayed home after their child’s birth, stated that they enjoyed diaper changing, feeding and all related activities, as the emotional bond between them became stronger. As they said, parental leave should be extended and claimed by everyone, because it ensures that their role in the upbringing of their child will not be that of a “helper”, but of a real “co-parent”.

The advantages are great for the young mother, too, when she is being supported by her husband the first months after the birth. More specifically, the parental leave of the father is linked with lower stress levels and better work performance for women.

Indeed, for every extra month of the leave that the father takes, the wages of the mother are raising up to 6,7%! On contrary, when a man doesn’t take parental leave, the possibilities for a promotion or a rise on the salary of the mother are being considerably restricted.

Furthermore, studies show that children who, as babies, were close with both of their parents, have more developed learning abilities and higher degrees at school. Girls, particularly, have really high school performances, if their father was at home the first months of their life.

What are, then, the reasons that discourage men from claiming parental leave longer than two weeks, even though its advantages are well-known and the majority of young fathers would like to spend more time with the newborn baby? They can be summed up as follows:

First of all, the policy of each company for the height of the salary that would be provided during the absence from work, is not the same. So, many men admit that they are not willing to take more than some days off, if they are not going to receive at least 70% of their monthly wages. Secondly, employers are not flexible as far as the projects that should be completed, are concerned. As a result, 40% of men who returned at work after an absence of many months, confess that they were really stressed about the tasks they left unfinished.

Consequently, paternal leave should be introduced by a law that will include also a prediction for the salary that will be provided during the man’s absence. At the same time, companies should redefine the way they treat young parents ensuring them a smooth return to their work environment and their tasks. This way the possibility of motherhood will stop be considered as a “disadvantage” for women employees and they will not be left out from the claim of hierarchically higher positions. The long stay of a woman at home deprives her of professional experience, something that inevitably leads to injustice regarding the undertaking of leading positions with negative impact on the companies’ performance. We hope that Mark’s example will be the beginning for progress on this very important issue.

Written by Marianna Lazarou
Translated by Maria Piskiouli

Photo: Annie Leibovitz via Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook