[article] Alexis Ohanian: Why now is the time to destigmatize paternity leave, for good

October 5, 2020

 

 

Finally, back to the US. Where are our pioneers? Where is our Billy Madison making parental leave cool? Enter, Alexis Ohanian. But also, seriously, guys...any one of you can become the trendsetter. All the cool kids are doing it. Don't you want to be cool? Just pee your pants already... I mean, take paternity leave! 

Ohanian writes about his experience taking leave after the birth of his daughter.

"After she was born, I took four months of paternity leave, which was Reddit’s company policy, engineered by our VP of people and culture, Katelin Holloway. I told her I wanted to set an example for all of our hundreds of employees—not just the men, but especially them."

"I was disheartened to read recently about the former CEO of a fitness brand who (among other abhorrent discrimination accusations) allegedly disparaged a male colleague who was contemplating taking paternity leave. While it was upsetting to see, especially from a company that touts community as a priority, it was not shocking."

"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that they’re less of a man for taking time to be with their family after their child’s birth is as stupid as it is outdated."

But just maybe we can learn something from this pandemic.

"Research shows an 11% rise in equal responsibilities shared between mothers and fathers since the onset of the pandemic. 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."

But Ohanian recognizes the real catch... offering leave is not enough. You need to have real men setting the example. 

"Throughout my time championing the need for paid family leave, I realized that fighting for paid family leave policy is only half the battle. Fathers must feel empowered to take paternity leave, and our society needs to normalize this."

And again, this benefits everybody!

"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."

And it isn't just good for people, it is good for companies! (Are you sold yet???)

"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."

But at the end of the day, you need buy in at all levels to reap any of these benefits.

"I believe it starts at the top, not only with implementing paid family leave policies for moms and dads but also through leading by example. Executives in positions of power need to take full advantage of those policies and encourage 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."

"Currently, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t provide some form of paid family leave. It’s time to change that."

Ya think?

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