On Wednesday, Reddit cofounder (and Serena Williams' husband) Alexis Ohanian announced that he is stepping down from his day-to-day duties at Reddit and returning to Initialized Capital, an early-stage VC firm he co-founded in 2011, as general partner.
"After more than three years of serving back at Reddit, my first 'baby' is in a much better place and has a great team in place," he wrote. "Now I'm back at Initialized with even bigger ambitions than when we started. As a new father of a five-month-old little girl, I want to make sure the world she inherits is as great as possible."
Fortune reports that Ohanian will continue to serve on Reddit's board, and that "the decision involved the 'promise he made to this little poppy seed'" — his daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. — whose birth inspired a feeling of "superpower and purpose."
Ohanian developed some sense of that responsibility on paternity leave, he told the magazine. Taking the 16 paid weeks that Reddit gives all parents likely gave him much-needed time to bond with "Junior," but also, Fortune points out, handle his share of family duties while Williams recovered from a traumatic childbirth.
"I was a believer before, but now I whole-heartedly believe that every single dad should take it," he said. "That really put into perspective how important these policies are."
Ohanian is one of only a few high profile men who have ever come out in support of paid family leave. (Mark Zuckerberg made headlines in 2015 when he announced he was taking leave ahead of his first daughter's birth.) The U.S. is still the only industrialized nation without a federal paid leave policy. In recent years, individuals, with the help of advocacy groups, have used grassroots efforts to fight for paid leave at their jobs. Still, two-fifths of workers are ineligible for FMLA (which is unpaid), and as a result many workers are left in the lurch.
Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, studied the increase of men taking paternity leave in Norway to see how that success might be replicated in the U.S. He found that policies specifically giving fathers leave were initially most successful "among men working union and government jobs;" then, it "gradually crept up to about 70% of fathers taking leave" — particularly in the private sector — as men saw other men using that time.
"If you had a coworker take leave, then you're 11 percentage points more likely to take leave yourself when you have your child," Dahl told NPR last year. "If you have a brother who took leave, you're 15 percentage points more likely to take leave."
Even with more men redefining modern fatherhood, we're still battling entrenched gender norms. Ohanian told Fortune he noticed a double standard in which people speculated about Williams returning to professional tennis, while simply assuming he would return to his job at Reddit. Still, at the very least, by speaking out for these policies — and walking the walk — he is doing his part to change the conversation about gender, work, and family.