Alexis Ohanian is reflecting on paid paternity leave, referencing the ongoing pandemic and how fathers are ready to step up to the plate. Ohanian shares a daughter with Serena Williams.
The Reddit co-founder and former board member wrote an article for Fast Company, reflecting on earlier days when his daughter was younger and how paternity leave affected him and his family.
“After she was born, I took four months of paternity leave, which was Reddit’s company policy . . . I wanted to set an example for all of our hundreds of employees—not just the men, but especially them,” he wrote.
“While a small fraction of U.S. companies (9%) offer paid paternity leave, the stark reality is that many men don’t take advantage of the opportunity, due to a looming stigma and fear of losing their standing—or, even worse, their job. Unfortunately, those fears are not unfounded and that stigma is very real.”
Alex went on to share how he was discouraged to learn how a former fitness brand CEO allegedly belittled a male coworker and was considering taking maternity leave — except he was not shocked to hear about it.
“Those comments are symptomatic of a larger societal sentiment and evidence that there is still so much work to be done,” he wrote.
“The implication that paternity leave is unimportant sets a dangerous precedent, one that suggests fathers are not an integral part of the child care unit, and perpetuates the antiquated belief that mothers alone should be the primary caregivers.”
“Worse, explicitly (or implicitly) telling a male employee that they’re less of a man for taking time to be with their family after their child’s birth is as stupid as it is outdated. Showing up is exactly what fathers should be doing for their families. Now is the time to eliminate the stigma associated with paternity leave, once and for all.”
Alexis feels that Americans are now seeing what fathers can accomplish for their families in light of the ongoing pandemic, and when they are given the opportunity, that men would feel more empowered to take it if given the opportunity.
“The benefits of normalizing paternity leave have a much greater impact beyond the father himself. Studies have shown that when men are able to take paid leave, they can help close the gender pay gap. In Sweden, where they provide equitable parental leave policies and encourage fathers to take leave, research shows a mother’s earnings can rise by about 7% for each additional month her spouse is able to take leave,” he wrote, adding:
“Not only does equal parental leave benefit the family, but it can also benefit the company by attracting and retaining talent. A study conducted by Promundo, an international nonprofit, finds that 77% of millennial men have or would be willing to change jobs in order to better manage fatherhood responsibilities with career responsibilities.”
In addition, Alexis believes that change must start from the top — and not just in terms of executives introducing paid family leave policies for their companies but also with said executives taking leaves themselves while also encouraging their employees to do the same. “This sends a clear message that the policies are more than just lip service, or an HR box checked—they’re a concept the company truly believes in.”
And while parents have been feeling the chaos more than ever, Alexis believes that this time in our country’s history further proves that more can be done to support families. As “the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t provide some form of paid family leave. It’s time to change that.”
Alexis wrote: “Harvard University also found that nearly 70% of fathers across America feel closer to their children now than they did pre-pandemic. These are positive changes that we need to carry with us as we move forward. We can no longer go ‘back to normal’; instead, we need to use this time to take an inventory of broken systems and get to work on fixing them.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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