Facebook can do better to retain new mothers
San Francisco: Facebook should do better for families -- especially for new mothers -- by allowing them flexible work hours so that they are not forced to leave their jobs, a former employee has stressed.
Writing in The Wired on Sunday, Eliza Khuner, a data scientist who worked at Facebook from November 2017 to July 2018, said she had to leave her job at Facebook as the company has no policy for those who have to balance motherhood with their jobs.
"I love my job, but I love my baby even more. When I told Facebook I wanted to work from home part-time, HR was firm: You can't work from home, you can't work part-time and you can't take extra unpaid leave," Khuner wrote.
"In mid-July, with the heartache of a break-up, I sent my resignation letter. I also wrote another note describing my agonising choice, saying that Facebook could and should do better for families. I posted it internally, in a group for Facebook employees worldwide," she added.
To her surprise, over 5,500 Facebook employees reacted in support.
"Hundreds commented, telling me I wasn't alone. Mothers shared how they struggled to perform at work and be there for their kids, and how sad they were to miss the special moments.
"Fathers said they felt the strain of not being with their children. People with no kids chimed in with their support," Khuner said.
Facebook implemented four months' paid maternity leave for all employees after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg availed two months of paternity leave in 2015 for her daughter's birth.
The policy that began from January 1, 2016, for all new parents regardless of gender or location, allows employees to take leave at any point up to a year after the birth of their child.
Khuner said that during her four months' maternity leave, she envisioned caring for a baby alongside a full-time job but couldn't.
In one of the replies to her, a woman wrote: "I'm getting my eggs frozen, for the sole reason to delay children, because I fear having to make this decision".
According to COO Sheryl Sandberg, while management wanted to move in that direction at some point in the future, they couldn't right now.
"Allowing part-time options to all parents would strain the rest of the team, she said," wrote Khuner.
Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been rushing to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits to help recruit and retain employees.
Many high-tech workers, however, do not take advantage of such benefits for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.
According to Khuner, Facebook has solved harder problems than this.
"That Friday at the weekly Q&A for Facebook staff, I stood before Mark Zuckerberg, my baby sleeping on my chest, and challenged him to do better.
"Zuckerberg said he was sorry I was leaving, but echoed Sheryl," she added.
According to her, companies like Facebook have the imagination and the resources to implement better leave and flexibility in working hours so parents don't have to choose between their children and careers.