"I wasn't fully appreciative of it, sadly, until I found myself preparing to take my leave," said Ohanian at the Wall Street Journal Future of Everything Festival earlier this week. He had told Reddit's vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, that he had wanted to go through the process like any other employee.
Then, Ohanian experienced a rough entry into fatherhood. His wife, tennis great Serena Williams, endured life-threatening complications while giving birth. She wrote about the experience candidly later on.
"It wasn't until seeing everything my wife went through — having Olympia nearly killed her," Ohanian said. "To think about going through that period, even with all of the resources that we have — the wealth that we have, the family support that we have — and it was such a traumatic period, and especially the months thereafter. I could not have imagined going through it with any less support, let alone knowing that I had 16 weeks of paid leave."
Ohanian also noted his privileged position in taking the leave. "I'm a founder," he said. "I'm not going to get fired."
Since then, he's been one of the most high-profile champions for paid parental leave. Even in Silicon Valley, where cushy worker benefits are the norm, it can be hard for men to fully commit to taking time off work, which he encourages on all fronts.
"It's fun. It's really valuable time you'll never get back," Ohanian said. "Some of the feedback I've gotten over the past couple years have been from the bro-iest bros!"
His campaign for paid family leave comes during the tightest job market in half a century, with unemployment rates at a 50-year low. As such, many companies are revamping their benefits — including family leave policies — and not only changing the time limits but also making them available to employees who had previously not been eligible.
Earlier this week, the trendy salad chain sweetgreen announced its new family leave policy, adding to a growing movement by companies to sweeten deals for even hourly employees.
"At sweetgreen, mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, foster parents, and others with new additions to their families will now receive 5 months fully paid leave. This move is rare for our industry and we hope this creates a conversation for other companies to join," the company announced on Tuesday.
"We believe it is our responsibility to lead the way given the U.S. is one of the few countries that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents," the company said.
Here are some other companies leading the charge with their parental leave policies.
As of May 13, 2019: paid parental leave of up to three months after someone has been with the organization for two years, and paid leave of up to six months after five years of employment. The program applies to every full-time employee (defined as someone who works 24 hours or more per week).
Lyft provides 18 weeks fully paid time away as a new parent, regardless of gender. This can be flexible and broken up, but it's encouraged to take at least one week at a time. (A reminder that Lyft does not consider drivers employees so they are not eligible for family leave.)
All employees receive a period of at least 16 weeks paid time off at 100%. Birth parents are also covered 100% for any pregnancy and post-delivery leave in addition to their 16 weeks of bonding leave, which could be up to 17 additional weeks. There's an option to use four weeks of leave to create a flexible return to work schedule, such as every Monday or Friday.
Parental/maternal leave: 18 weeks for all full-time employees for a parental leave. (A reminder that Uber does not consider drivers employees so they are not eligible for family leave.)