On Friday afternoon, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a Facebook post that he and his wife Priscilla Chan are expecting a baby girl. "This will be a new chapter in our lives," Zuckerberg wrote. "We're looking forward to welcoming her into the world and sharing more soon when she's ready to come out and meet everyone!"
The news immediately drew a frenzied pool of media responses.
The exuberant responses were, to some degree, to be expected. Zuckerberg is one of the world's most high-profile CEOs, and his candid acknowledgment that the couple had been trying to conceive for a few years and that Chan has had three miscarriages rightfully drew praise for its honesty and openness.
But media reactions were missing a big question that often accompanies high-profile pregnancy announcements. Nobody asked: How will Mark Zuckerberg juggle being a parent while running a massive company worth $245 billion? Nobody asked: Can Mark Zuckerberg have it all?!
This question is, of course, often lobbed at pregnant women or mothers who also happen to occupy important leadership positions. Take a glance at the headlines that emerged after then-brand-new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced her pregnancy in 2012:
2. The Cut:
3. All Things D:
4. Forbes, again:
Following the news, the public debate automatically shifted to how Mayer's work life would change. "Will having her first baby impact her performance or perception as the strong leader that Yahoo desperately needs?" asked Jenna Goudreau at Forbes.
More recently, Talia Goldstein, CEO of dating startup Three Day Rule, revealed that she hid her pregnancy because she was worried it would affect her fundraising efforts. "It's the worst feeling in the world having to hide your pregnancy," she remembers writing in a diary entry before the birth of her child. "It's awful knowing that the second I reveal that I am pregnant, investors will suddenly second guess whether I am capable enough to run a company. So, I am going to hide my pregnancy as long as I can."
When Mayer announced she was only taking a few weeks of maternity leave, Fortune asked whether she was "setting unrealistic expectations for young women hoping to follow in her footsteps."
Let's be real: No one is going to question Zuckerberg's leadership capabilities as he prepares for parenthood or even takes paternity leave to spend time with his daughter. Nobody will wring their hands over whether Mark Zuckerberg's judgment will be clouded because of sleep deprivation. Nobody will ask whether the stress of fatherhood will prove to be too much on top of the burden of running a billion-dollar company. Nobody will wonder whether he will gradually begin to "lean out."
The counterargument, of course, is that Zuckerberg, unlike Mayer and Goldstein, isn't pregnant — his wife is. But putting aside the fact that discriminating against pregnant employees is against the law to begin with, it's important to note that the questions lobbed at these female CEOs were not limited to their gestation periods; they spilled into parenthood, too.
When Mayer announced she was only taking a few weeks of maternity leave, Fortune asked whether she was "setting unrealistic expectations for young women hoping to follow in her footsteps." Deborah Kolb, author of Her Place at the Table, a book on female leadership, told Forbes' Goudreau, "There is something about motherhood. When you have a first child, it changes your life in some way. It changes how you think about yourself. I don't know how prepared she is."
Talia Goldstein, CEO of dating startup Three Day Rule, revealed that she hid her pregnancy because she was worried it would affect her fundraising efforts.
Arguably, if the playing field between male and female leaders were equal, Zuckerberg would be weathering the same kind of commentary; parenthood involves fathers, too. With paternity leave gaining traction among fathers in the United States, and his own public excitement over the new role, Zuckerberg should be a perfect target for the sort of microscopic examination CEOs like Mayer faced.
Yet nobody is wasting ink on whether Mark Zuckerberg can have it all. He can have it all; he's a male CEO. If only that were the case for everyone.