We created six videos of dads in our community sharing their paternity leave stories, numerous social posts, and over eight articles on the topic. We've helped collect close to 40,000 signatures for this vital cause, but the fight continues.
We sat down with one of the Dadvocates who played a huge role in organizing the Day of Action, Vice President / General Manager at Unilever, Skin Cleansing & Baby Care USA Nick Soukas, for a Q&A on his thoughts on and experiences of the day itself.
The Dadvocates Day of Action on Capitol Hill - October 22, Washington, D.C.
Gays With Kids: How would you describe the Day of Action?
Nick Soukas: The Dove Men+Care Dads Day of Action was one of the most inspiring days of my career. Our ongoing commitment to paternity leave came to life with the help of our NGO partner PL+US and a team of Dadvocates, including Alexis Ohanian, Unilever leadership and eight real dads from across the country, all of whom are deeply passionate about affecting policy change in Washington, D.C. Paid Family Leave is a bipartisan issue, that impacts all American families, and while conversations around the issue have been increasing in both culture and politics, it is still not a priority issue for many of our politicians. The powerful stories of the Dadvocates, real fathers who have suffered without access to paid paternity leave, were moving and sparked conversations among politicians across the aisle. Seeing politicians post on social media about the Dadvocates and the meetings we had with them was a clear indicator of how truly impactful these stories were, and how effective they were at placing faces and names to an issue.
GWK: What were some of your personal highlights, most rewarding moments from the day?
NS: The most rewarding part of the day was seeing dads and allies from different backgrounds come together to advocate for a common cause. Everyone involved had a key role to play, and those roles fit together to create a compelling movement that resonated with the Members of Congress we met. It was also extremely powerful to see Dadvocates – some of whom stood side-by-side with their partners and children – candidly sharing their personal stories to these legislators. Coming in as a brand representative, it became clear that we have a powerful role to play in amplifying the millions of voices of real dads who use and trust our brand every day. We sometimes underestimate the role that brands and business with purpose have to affect real societal change.
GWK: What do you think were the main achievements of the day?
NS: The main achievement of the day was the number of intimate meetings we had with key legislators from both sides of the aisle. We ended up meeting with 23 legislators in total, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Bill Cassidy and more. It was powerful and effective to bring our Dadvocates to D.C., leading the meetings with their personal stories – it was clear that these stories, especially those coming from constituents, had a lasting emotional impact on the people sitting in the room.
GWK: What are Dove Men+Care's next steps to continue advocating for paternity leave?
NS: Our plan is to continue to build support of the Pledge for Paternity Leave until federally mandated policy becomes a reality for all American parents. We saw the Dads Day of Action as an important step in the journey towards this goal. In 2020, we hope to continue connecting with key legislators at both the Federal and Local levels, and inspire individuals, communities and businesses to become advocates for the cause and take action however they can.
GWK: What should our community continue to do regarding next steps? How can folks keep advocating and pushing for change?
NS: The Gays with Kids community adds a valuable voice to the paid leave conversation, as GBT dads and LGBTQ parents are often not brought to the forefront when the issue is addressed by our legislators. For all communities, it is so important to remain active and engaged – actively keeping eyes and ears open about the issue, and taking action however they see fit. There is strength in numbers.
GWK: Looking back on 2019, where and how do you think Dove Men+Care's campaign was most impactful?
NS: Overall, it is clear that the Pledge for Paternity Leave tapped into a barrier that is truly affecting men and their ability to care for others. With nearly 40,000 Pledge signatures to date, the community has created a strong foundation for a movement fighting for paid paternity leave and paid leave policies overall. We continue to foster and engage this community through our Facebook group – Advocates for Paternity Leave – where we will sustain growth in advocacy by providing valuable tools and resources needed to take action. I think the most impactful part of our campaign is in this community, and in their authentic stories. As such, we feel the Pledge has begun to generate the social proof necessary for people to feel comfortable talking about the issue, and feel inspired to take action for change.
GWK: Congratulations on recently becoming a dad! How have you found fatherhood so far and what was your paternity leave experience?
NS: Fatherhood is a unique and personal journey for every dad and my journey was no exception. I was fortunate to have the opportunity from Unilever to take paid leave and I took the full time I was given. Those early moments are so critical in forming a bond with your child, but it's also an important period for parents to build their confidence. Parenting isn't something that you naturally fall into and become an expert in, it requires quality time with your child and your partner. Through my own experience with paternity leave, and through the work we are doing at Dove Men+Care, I want to make sure that no dad has to choose between their job and their family.