Zuckerberg style paternity leave..is it relevant?


Reading about one of the world’s busiest men running the Facebook empire wanting to take paternity leave got me thinking. Does this mean that Silicon Valley is officially recognizing paternity leave as an important step in encouraging and empowering men to share the responsibilities that come from a new born in the family? If so, it certainly sounded good.

Tech companies have always encouraged maternity/paternity leave in the hope of retaining talent. Yet most have not made much use  of the facility, it seems, for fears of missing out on the pace of work. Even in the case of Marisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who chose to take minimum time out with both of her pregnancies, worked throughout.

Comparisons aside, Zuckerberg’s statement is a powerful one and highlights the importance of giving family due time. In tech driven businesses, this can be a tough call. Not that it is easier elsewhere. Careers have been put on hold for those wanting to go all the way in caring for children. In the case of Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, it is even more poignant because the couple miscarried earlier. The significance of wanting to spend time with the new born and be around the new mother in a role that both empowers and assists her,must mean considerably to the Facebook founder.

So, does this mean that paternity leave is important for all men whose wives are due to give birth? Or is it just more of the politically correct statements and standpoints to show the world that gender is a key issue in Silicon Valley?

Paternity leave, I’m certain, does help. I remember the aftermath of having my daughter, recovering from a bleeding fibroid and facing the post natal depression blues. Having my husband around helped. It was not just sharing the work – it was also being able to share the fears, the uncertainties, the complications and being able to be comforted and soothed by the person closest to you and the family. Sometimes, what matters is the fact that your husband is around – not even doing anything but just being there so that you can be assured everything is alright. New mothers need an extra hand in reassurance, as we all know.

Undoubtedly, Zuckerberg has set a new standard for all the young, tech driven fathers out there. As a parent who is also a millennial, his decision speaks much for the restoration of faith in families, in fathers wanting to spend time with children and in giving family priority over work. It tells the young generation that work could never replace family, which in itself is a strong delivery. It puts the concept of getting married, having children, raising a family in a new light – for the better.

Now that the founder of the social media giant Facebook confirms paternity leave is ok, we should see the concept gaining momentum at places of work. Argued, evaluated, thought over, mulled over – call it what you may. Every new mother would benefit from an extra pair of hands – especially from the one  who is closest to her.




the best is not always the first…

the best is not always the first…

Today was my eight year old daughter’s last day of school for the second term.

She had a statement to make – a child picked up a prize for a special achievement – with a sparkle in her eyes,  she asked me , can I also get a prize?

Which got me thinking. After assuring her that she indeed can, it made me go back in time to my school days. Most of us were average, as children often are. There were the brilliant ones and they were those who became the doctors and the engineers. Today, they still do. Our education system has not changed much from the days back when I went to school. The under achievers don’t always discover their potential – perhaps later in life and then they shine and notch up achievements.

The average ones always form the majority. They may not always be the bright sparks and maybe late bloomers but they are all special nevertheless. It’s sad that our education system does not allow the majority to also sparkle. While burdening one with a lot of useless information which can neither be used for a modern day career nor learnt to make things better in life, the system also gives an unfair advantage to the ones with photographic memory.

While studying for a case study during our marketing days, I remember the ones sitting around and listening to what was being discussed. Often enough, these listeners who were memorizing what was being discussed, achieved better results than the ones actually churning up ideas for the discussion. The system of learning by rote favours those who can cram and fill up their memory space with information, only to bring it out at an examination.

So how do we measure success – is it in terms of academic achievement or career success? As we now know, the academic performance is not always related to career highs. While it does happen – those who do well in school and university always go on to get into stellar careers especially if they are in specialised knowledge fields like medicine or law, for others, one is not always connected to the other.

Soft skills matter in the real world as much as academic performance – how do we measure up to the expectations of self-assured confidence, being articulate, smart, fast to learn and the ability to get things done independently. Those traits are powerful enough to make or break a career – and can sometimes even surpass academic achievements.

While we do encourage children to ensure they do well in school and at university, we should also make sure their social and emotional intelligence measures up. How are the speaking skills, writing skills – do they excel at inter personal relationships? How do they connect with one another, are they able to get things done and able to communicate effectively?

Back to the achiever at school – we must ideally be able to make sure all children can be achievers in their own way – and to assure them that even though they may not always make the cut academically, they can do well in life nevertheless.

Do we have to deal with the guilt?

Motherhood. Work. Career.Busy kids. Home front. Chores to run. Meals to be cooked. Homework supervised. The list is endless.

The balancing act also involves plenty of guilt. For most mothers, dealing with guilt becomes a pre-occupation. You feel guilty about the time you spend away from the family, at work or in pursuit of work related travel. You feel guilty even when you are there with them, playing an active role as a mother and a wife because you believe sometimes that you are not spending as much time as you should. You feel guilt if you try to catch some Me time all by yourself. In the endless guilt trips you secretly take yourself on, you are never doing enough, never enough to be the perfect mother.

Let’s get that straight – None of us, how hard we may try or try to congratulate ourselves, will never be the perfect mother. Nor the perfect wife. We can only try to do our best under the circumstances. And you need to deal with that guilt. You need to be determined enough to put an end to the toxic thoughts that constantly try to press you down with the pity party. Well, the pity party is long over and you are trying to do your best, give your family the best you can give.

Sometimes, you may not really be up to it. All of us get that day off feeling. You are in the middle of a rush school day and there’s lunch boxes to be made and clothes to be pressed, your daughter gives you that look with hair ribbon in her hand and the clock is ticking. You secretly wish you could get away to a spa tucked away in some serene valley, just for the day.

Sometimes, it is one of those days when irritability teams up with a bad mood to set you apart in a category of it’s own. You yell and you fuss and later when they have all gone, you feel guilty. You need to be kind to yourself. Often enough, we have to learn to be not so hard on ourselves ; whether in being nice to our kids and husbands and colleagues , we tend to overlook ourselves.  

Take yourself out for a treat. It’s alright to indulge in some shopping, pampering and self-care. Just don’t over-do it. Some of us have life long pamper parties we never seem to leave. I try to catch up with some friends over coffee and talk of nothing important in particular, just some girl conversation that never seems dull but is always refreshing. We talk about our careers, our children, our husbands and our diets. And we go back to our homes, feeling good about all of that chatting.

No one ever promised an easy ride for a career woman who happens to be a wife and a mother with a full household to run. We need to strike a balance, a mental one that does not point us out to ourselves so often that we are on a constant roller coaster of guilt. The balance we all seek can only come when you learn to deal with the guilt in a positive manner.

Your kids may be older and your home chores lessened, but as a senior career woman once shared with me, the guilt has never left. In fact, she says, she has to constantly deal with it from the past tense to the present. You were never there when the kids were growing up is a favourite guilt line. 

The best way to deal with guilt is swiftly and consistently. You need to start telling yourself that you are doing the best you can. Keep talking – to yourself – you need to heat that positive voice in your head that can successfully counter the negative one. We need to deal with ourselves before we try to deal with the world and good luck. 

Marriage, Finding the right partner, career, women




Finding and marrying the right partner, as we all know, is relevant for every aspect of life. Whether career or otherwise, picking the wrong partner will only mean loads of regret and pain, sometimes enough to last a lifetime. But how does it matter in the fast paced corporate world, where some would stake everything in order to pursue success?


In Sri Lanka, as in most of the world, statistics show that women marry late. Girls prefer higher education and working, while also engaging in pursuing MBAs before considering marriage. Most are entering their thirties when they eventually think of getting married. While it maybe a good thing personally, it can also have the downside – we now have an ageing population and infertility is considered high, causing social issues.


But on the whole, finding the right partner does figure in one’s pursuit of career advancement – it goes without saying that women do need a tremendous amount of support from the home front, whether from the husband and or the kids. With too many marriage break ups taking place in the society at large, almost all of us benefit from making sure we find the right partner in life. 


One of America’s most successful female CEOs, Ursula Burns, has exceptional advice for women seeking to marry the right man who could hopefully, be the help mate in building a stellar career. Burns who was the first African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company started work at Xerox Corp as an intern and eventually rose through the ranks to the top slot.


Burns recalls her mother’s advice, growing up in a crowded public housing scheme – “Where you are not who you are. Remember that when you are rich and famous.” The 54 year old charismatic CEO of Xerox Corp says she never forgot that. Burns was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for the five point plan she recommends for women wanting to do well in their careers.

At the top of her list is finding a good husband – preferably an older man. Burns should know – her own husband was 20 years older to her when they met at work and married. She says that he had done the growing up thing when they married and had no trouble in letting her career advance as he was more than happy to provide child- minding support.

Burns also believes that redefining work-life balance is as important as finding the right mate. While you will never have a perfect equilibrium of professional and personal lives, one should feel comfortable with what one can achieve over time. It goes without saying that having the right partner matters tremendously in managing the work-home balance. Support is the key word and without that, no woman will be able to have it all figured out.

Sometimes, be a little selfish, advises the Xerox Corp CEO. Failing to get medical needs attended to and not finding the time to rest and go on holiday can be dangerous in the long term. A supportive spouse will always want to ensure that his wife is in the best of health – if a medical condition calls for surgery, then his wife can be at rest knowing that the husband will be there to take care of the home affairs. The same level of concern extends to the occasions that may call for frequent overseas travel and long periods away from home on work. In order to perform at her best at work, she needs to be more than confident that everything at home is taken care of.

Burns also recommends that we take no guilt trips as mothers, wives and daughters. There are too many of us on that permanent guilt wagon.  That’s one load that is never going to go away – unless you learn to unload. It is always prudent to tell yourself you did the best you could, under the circumstances.  Nothing can change the past and the guilt would only upset and spoil your future.

Burns also recommends that we take life as it comes – not too seriously. Always refer back to the basics – that way, you can stay well grounded. Enjoying life is often about reconnecting with the basics.

There’s always hope for those who may not have found the right partner in life – there is always the opportunity of a second chance. Some however plunge themselves into work and turn into workcoholics in order to turn away from a bad marriage. Such tactics may seem to work but in the long term, they only wear you down. As we get older, we find that we need to achieve a level of peace in our lives – chaos may be fine when you are younger but a predictable routine, with all of life’s challenges whether career-wise or not, help us all.

In the end, it is all about making decisions. The right ones of course, whether in finding the right partner or finding the right career. Too many people assume that wrong choices are the right ones.  It matters to learn to make the right choices in life.

Is the 9 to 5 routine becoming a relic of the past?

Back when the internet was not around and entrepreneurship did not garner the same level of respect it does today, a traditional climb up the ladder was the expected path – for women and men. Today, enter the world wide web, work-from-home careers, social networking and everything else in between, men and women are increasingly finding themselves attracted to different career paths that do not always keep the traditional 9 to 5 routine.

Working from home, freelancing and entrepreneurship are becoming empowered career paths – working times have changed beyond recognition. As more and more people work on line and across time zones, the 9 to 5 routine no longer applies the way it did before. According to estimates, 60% of the Generation Y or the Millennials, generally referring to the generation born during the eighties onwards, are leaving companies in less than three years  to pursue different goals. They are not sticking around for a long term career – 9 to 5 office routine that once so faithfully adhered to, is no longer the game plan. The game plan, in fact, could be just about anywhere, thanks to internet powered smart phones and tabs.

The concept of an office as in a smart cubicle, accompanied by the traditional corporate trimmings, is no longer the icing on the cake for smart women (and men). More so for women because working from home, meeting deadlines and developing individual schedules have never looked more attractive , especially to career mothers.

Flexibility,  a greater understanding of the vast market out there and the infinite possibilities the world wide web opens up are some of the main reasons why most women prefer turning their backs on the 9 to 5 routine. Yes there are the ones who actually benefit from physically going to office. After five or six years on the job, it becomes second nature. Some, in fact, look forward to going to work, having the first cup of tea or coffee, catching up on the week’s gossip before attending to work but for others, the 9 to 5 routine robs them of flexibility and opportunities to reach the stars.

According to the recent Millenial Branding Report, 45% of the Generation Y chose flexibility at work over a higher pay. Take for an example web based companies who built their success on innovative platforms. Lionbridge is one such company – they started as a translation focused site but soon expanded to provide crowd sourced employees to a wide range of companies. Their crowd workers include stay at home mothers, retirees and of course Millennials who seem to prefer flexibility over fixed routine.

While seeking to work on assignments on their own terms, the Generation Y also prefers work that generally targets a greater purpose like changing the world. In a study conducted in the USA, 72% of students as compared to 53% of workers, preferred a job that could make an ‘impact’.   The ‘impact’ was not necessarily social but could also be personal. As a result, social entrepreneurship has exploded in the last few years and continues to draw faithful adherents.

There are other aspects – values, building lasting relationships and forming bonds with others at work – all of these are emerging as key employee indicators. More and more of the young generation are seeking jobs that are culturally ‘sound’. Companies such as Google that work on totally different platforms from the traditional office model, are popular and are sought after.

As novel as these concerns are, they do not filter down always into being financially viable. The young generation sometimes does not realize that there is number crunching involved in most ventures that bring in the dough. There are some innovative platforms that could rival the 9 to 5 office routine but they are too far and in between to make an impact large enough to be felt in the market place.

What they also do not realize is that success still means hard work that takes commitment. While some can accomplish work wherever they maybe, others still may benefit from the traditional office environment. Not everyone is cut out for the kind of intangible but highly successful work models involving flexibility and web based portals.

Technology has already made its impact in the way we live and work – the world wide web has changed the way we communicate, think and apply ourselves to different situations. It has transformed the office environment, the study environment and the home environment. Yet, it will continue to do all this and more, co-existing beside the traditional models of the already established parameters.  At least for now.