Mark Zuckerberg offers a brilliant response to a Facebook user’s comments about her granddaughters.
Mark Zuckerberg knows anything is possible, and he wants to make sure kids grow up knowing that too. In a recent Facebook interaction, he reminded a well-meaning grandmother to think a little bit bigger when it comes to discussing future goals with her granddaughters.
Zuckerberg posted yesterday about the “personal challenges” he wants to take on in the new year. While he says in past years he’s set goals to learn Mandarin or read two book per month, this year he wants to focus on building an artificial intelligence system for his home. He writes, “I’m going to start by exploring what technology is already out there. Then I’ll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home — music, lights, temperature and so on… Every challenge has a theme, and this year’s theme is invention.”
A well-meaning grandmother commented to thank Zuckerberg for his continued work on Facebook and said, “I keep telling my granddaughters to date the nerd in school, he may turn out to be a Mark Zuckerberg!”
Zuckerberg responded brilliantly, writing, “Even better would be to encourage them to *be* the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!”
Since he responded, his comment has been liked more than 18,000 times, and many have posted in agreement with his words. Wrote one, “Thank you for your answer that holds females in a place of equality. So refreshing.”
The exchange is a great example of how easy it is to perpetuate sexism, even when that’s likely not your intention. Surely, this grandmother believes her granddaughters can do anything and tells them as much, but we live in a society that traditionally places a higher value on the accomplishments of men, especially in the fields of science and technology, and those outdated attitudes aren’t something that changes overnight. It takes a conscious effort to change the way you communicate with young people and to foster the language of equality. Zuckerberg’s response is a gentle reminder to do just that.
Zuckerberg has revealed himself to be quite the progressive role model in the past few months. He was intimately involved and supportive during his wife’s pregnancy, even speaking openly about her miscarriages and the way they both struggled. He’s become an advocate for paid parental leave, and has shared quite a few photos that reveal him to be a very hands-on dad. What’s more, Zuckerberg treats all of this as normal — because it is. That’s what modern parenthood and modern relationships are supposed to look like: equal.
It’s refreshing to see a male CEO take such a strong stance on being an equal partner, equal parent, and on encouraging the next generation to model equality in every aspect of their lives. Zuckerberg will never encourage his daughter, Max, to date a smart person; he’ll tell her to be the smart person. We should all expect and encourage the same of our own kids.