There’s a new push for policymaking around paternity leave, and tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian — who also happens to be the husband of tennis star Serena Williams — is leading the charge.
Ohanian is leading other fathers to a “Dad’s Day of Action” in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, where he plans to meet with Senators Marco Rubio, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand to try to push for legislation to federally mandate family leave for all parents.
Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and of venture firm Initialized Capital, had an epiphany while taking paternity leave following the birth of his daughter, Alexis Olympia, in 2017. “After all of the difficulties that my wife had after childbirth and seeing the very real trauma that our family experienced, it really crystallized to me how important this was for every American to have, because I could not imagine any of my employees or any of my fellow Americans having to deal with the complications of a new child and not being able to be there to support your partner or even take care of yourself and your family,” he told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that while nine out of 10 men take some time off after the birth of a baby, 70% take 10 days or less. Those fathers who take more time see lasting benefits: A study of 9-year-olds, released earlier this year, shows increased closeness between children and dads who took paternity leave, particularly of two weeks or more.
After California adopted a paid family leave policy in 2005, there was a substantial uptick in men taking leave. A 2012 Labor Department-commissioned study found nearly 50% of workers didn’t take leave for economic reasons.
Ohanian has teamed up with Dove Men+Care, the mens’ products division of the skin care giant owned by Unilever, for his paid family leave push. Dove is funding $5,000 grants to fathers over the next two years, for a total fund of $1 million, so they can have broader access to paid paternity leave.
During his visit to DC, Ohanian will present a 36,000-signature petition to members of Congress calling for paid paternity leave through the Dove Men+Care Pledge for Paternity Leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act, enacted in 1993, mandates 12 weeks of leave related to the birth of a child or to care for a sick relative — but it is unpaid.
Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, has pushed for mandated paid family leave, and many of the presidential candidates have advocated it, without any movement as of yet.
But Ohanian is optimistic. “I really think it's not a question of ‘if?’ It’s a question of ‘when?’”
Julie Hyman is the co-anchor of On the Move on Yahoo Finance.