Why Alexis Ohanian says increasing paternity leave would have a ‘tremendous impact’ on working women

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 03: Serena Williams’s husband Alexis Ohanian, holds their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. following the women’s singles match between Serena Williams of the United States and Katie Boulter of Great Britain during day six of the 2019 Hopman Cup at RAC Arena on January 03, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)Paul Kane | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

When his wife Serena Williams gave birth to their daughter Alexis in September 2017, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian took 16 weeks of paternity leave.

It’s something he wants all new parents to have the opportunity to do.

Ohanian has partnered with Dove Men + Care on the Pledge for Paternity Leave. “Working dads shouldn’t have to choose between their children and a paycheck,” the initiative’s website, where dads and advocates can sign up to push for universal paid paternity leave, reads. “When they take paternity leave, it benefits families, workplaces and communities.”

“It makes business sense,” Ohanian tells CNBC Make It. “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.”

CNBC: Alexis Ohanian SB 170630-001

Alexis OhanianCameron Costa | CNBC

Ohanian says that if more dads are granted leave and encouraged to take it, it will “normalize the behavior and destigmatize pregnancy for women.”

“It will just become a default assumption that this person you want to hire — regardless of whether they’re a man or a woman — could have a baby and could take time off,” he says. “If we can normalize that, then it will have a tremendous impact on women in the workforce.”

A report compiled by Dove Men + Care and Promundo says that 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. At the same time, 72% said their mental health would be better if fathers took this same amount of leave.

“It wasn’t until after my leave that I realized just how important [an] issue this is,” says Ohanian. “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 credits Reddit VP of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, with helping him to build a comprehensive parental leave policy that provides up to 16 weeks of paid time off for new parents.

“All the CEOs I talk to know how important this is,” he says. “We know how important talent is to the success of our business — both recruiting and retaining it — so this is going to continue to be a thing that is on the checklist.”

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Don’t miss: 4 female entrepreneurs discuss the challenges of taking maternity leave when you’re self-employed

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