When Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Redditt and husband to Serena Williams, started a paid paternal leave policy for his employees, he didn’t know he would soon become the most prominent advocates for the cause in the US.
“We implemented a policy that I didn’t think I was going to be using anytime soon, but a few years later, I found myself using and talking about [it] publicly,” Ohanian said to Business Insider.
Ohanian took four months off to care for his daughter in 2017 and has since become a leader in the fight for paid leave for fathers, using his social media to push the agenda.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But now, he is taking the fight to Congress. Just this month, he spent a week on Capitol Hill organizing business leaders and lawmakers on both ends for a national family leave policy.
“We live in a nation that prides itself on family values,” Ohanian told the publication, “and what better way to show what we actually support and these values than by having a program like paid leave for new parents and folks who aren’t already in the best-case scenario.”
Ohanian believes a federal mandate for paid family leave is the strongest way to ensure all workers, especially those with disabilities and low-paying jobs, can actually take time off to be with their growing families.
“Before I went on leave, I planned to use my entire four months and was casually asked about it on CNBC,” said Ohanian. “I didn’t think anything of it other than, ‘Oh, here’s this great policy, and I should use it.'”
Ohanian took leave after Williams suffered from health problems after their daughter’s birth, which then required him to take charge of Olympia’s care.
He wrote on Instagram in September 2017, “Out of office,” announcing his leave. He continued, “This is Parental Leave life. She’s clearly dreaming up all the startups she’ll start… And Grand Slams she’ll win… And….”
“Because Olympia’s birth was such a complicated one and I watched everything that my wife went through and persevered through … I realized that we had so many advantages, and yet this was still such a traumatic experience,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine anyone being put in [that situation] without the peace of mind knowing that they had paid leave.”
Since the birth of his baby girl, he’s also used his social media to celebrate fatherhood and the way his new title has transformed his outlook on life and encourages other dads to do the same.
“This is a movement,” Ohanian said in the interview with Business Insider. “And for fathers, in particular, a chance for us to step up and say that we want to be there and furthermore to make sure that every dad and mom has access to paid family leave.”