Tennis icon Serena Williams is known for her athletic excellence on the court. After giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in 2017, Williams is now outspoken on the balancing act of being a working mother, putting a spotlight on the challenges that many parents face. This new normal for the star athlete motivated her husband, Alexis Ohanian, to work toward a change in the workforce.
A new pledge
Widely known as the co-founder for Reddit, Ohanian just began leading the charge on an initiative for fathers, which will actually also benefit mothers. According to CNBC, Ohanian has partnered with Dove Men + Care on the Pledge for Paternity Leave, which seeks paid leave time for new dads. “Working dads shouldn’t have to choose between their children and a paycheck,” the initiative’s website reads. “When they take paternity leave, it benefits families, workplaces and communities.”
Dove Men + Care and Promundo compiled a report that states “65% of mothers surveyed in the U.S. said their physical health would be better if fathers took at least two weeks of paternity leave,” according to CNBC, and “72% said their mental health would be better if fathers took this same amount of leave.”
“It makes business sense,” Ohanian said. “I have three folks right now who are on paternity leave and I’m thrilled by it, because I know someone is not going to be able to work at their best if they’re worried about what’s going on back at the castle, back at the home front… Just having that peace of mind is vital to making sure they do their best work when they’re at the office.”
New crusade is based on his own experience
When his baby was born, Ohanian discovered how vital it was for men to have paid paternity leave. “It wasn’t until after my leave that I realized just how important [an] issue this is,” Ohanian said. “My family had every advantage imaginable and we still had to go through a really hard period of time, so I could not imagine going through it without knowing, like so many Americans, whether or not I had a job to go back to or a paid leave policy.”
Ohanian saw first-hand that it’s just as important for women to have the fathers with them when bringing home a newborn and recovering from childbirth. “Even with all the financial advantages we have, even with everything else we have going for us, seeing my wife, I mean literally with a hole still in her abdomen, and then my newborn daughter, seeing our family in that situation, that was the only priority I had in my life for those weeks,” Ohanian told Good Morning America. “Had I not had the peace of mind of knowing that I had a job that I could go back to, it would have been so traumatizing.”
Taking it to Washington, D.C.
Ohanian is taking the pledge to lawmakers on Capitol Hill this fall in the hopes of passing federal paid family leave legislation.”Now we’re looking toward October when I’ll put on a suit, go down to Washington, meet with folks on the left and the right, in the House and the Senate, and hopefully bring 100,000 signatures on this pledge to show just how many Americans care about this issue,” Ohanian told Fast Company.
The Reddit co-founder is dedicated to the cause and highly motivated for his upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. “I hope to be meeting with many senators, representatives, plenty of dads, on both sides of the aisle, in both houses of the Legislature, who want this to be the law of the land,” Ohanian said, according to Good Morning America. “What we are looking for is some minimum number of weeks of leave.”
Ohanian also sees the importance of the legislation making paid leave for dads more commonplace. “I hope this has a huge impact on maternity leave,” he said. “If more and more dads are taking the time off, if it becomes so normalized that any time any employee, man or woman, is going to have a child, then it destigmatizes women in the workforce who historically have suffered because of the specter of having a child and taking time off and maybe never coming back into the workforce.”