Americans deserve to get 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn or an ill family member, says entrepreneur and Business Dad podcast host Alexis Ohanian.
Ohanian, the founder of investment firm Seven Seven Six and co-founder of Reddit, took 16 weeks off from his numerous responsibilities when his daughter Olympia was born three years ago.
“At the time, I wanted to set an example as the leader of my company and a leader in the tech industry. I want to role model the kind of behavior I want in my employees, especially men,” Ohanian told CBS This Morning.
Ohanian’s wife, professional tennis player Serena Williams, had a complicated pregnancy with Olympia that almost killed her. Ohanian wrote about the experience in The New York Times.
“Serena and I were lucky enough to have help at home and many other advantages working in our favor. But even with all of that privilege, including my ability to focus solely on my family and not worry about keeping my job, it was still incredibly difficult,” Ohanian wrote in the August 12, 2019, issue of NYT Parenting. “Nothing could have dragged me away from my wife and daughter in those hours, days and weeks — and I’m grateful that I was never forced to choose between my family and my job.”
The experience also prompted him to start the podcast Business Dad through his venture capital fund, Initialized Capital. The podcast focuses on how dads struggle to “have it all.” Ohanian has talked to entrepreneurs, professional athletes, and business professionals about balancing business and family life.
President Biden’s American Families Plan proposes 12 weeks of paid family time.
Ohanian supports President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan, which includes 12 weeks of paid family leave. The U.S. is one of the only countries worldwide that doesn’t guarantee paid leave. Nearly one in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth and one in five retirees are forced to leave the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill family member.
Under Biden’s plan, workers could receive up to $4,000 per month while they take care of loved ones. The program is estimated to cost $225 billion over a decade.
More men need to be talking about family leave, Ohanian says. Before Olympia’s birth, he hadn’t thought much about Reddit’s paternity leave policy, which was initiated by Katelin Holloway, the company’s vice president of people and culture.
“It wasn’t until it deeply and personally affected me that I realized this is something every American deserves to have and feel confident to take advantage of,” Ohanian told CBS. “Every dad deserves it, as does every mom.”
Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six opens opportunities for future entrepreneurs.
Ohanian has almost always leaned toward philanthropic endeavors. In 2020, after stepping down from leadership roles at Reddit and Initialized Capital, he started Seven Seven Six, a venture capital firm that focused on “software and empathy.”
“I want to be known for making this world better—much better,” Ohanian’s personal website states.