Stephanie Ramos: “We have to be asking for more”

“How I Won” is a new series by PL+US that will highlight people who successfully advocated for and won paid family leave at their workplace. We at PL+US want to celebrate these important victories and offer them as encouragement for everyone fighting for paid family leave. It was in large part due to Stephanie and champions like her who succeeded in changing policy that we at PL+US were inspired to create a toolkit to empower others who want to do the same. For more information about our Paid Family Leave Workshop, which offers training and resources to people who want to improve their workplace paid family leave policy, please visit: http://paidleave.us/workshop.

Như Tiên Lữ, PL+US Workshop Manager, interviewed Stephanie Ramos to learn more about how she won a paid leave policy at her employer, Internet Creations.

Stephanie first became passionate about paid family leave when she was 24 years old and working at SiriusXM in New York City around the time that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was released. She recalls talking about it on-air, and learning that the U.S. doesn’t have a paid family leave policy. “Who can afford to take 3 months off of work unpaid? I couldn’t and at that time I had a decent job. I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. We have to be asking for more.’”

How did you begin the process of asking for a paid family leave policy at your workplace?

After working there for four to five months, I decided to take matters into my own hands and put together a proposal. The company said they were considering having a policy, but didn’t currently have anything. I asked my colleague, Christina Christ, who had been there for three years and was supportive of the idea, for her assistance. I said, “You have a lot more tenure and familiarity here knowing who can make this happen and what they’re looking for. Can you help me make this a ‘yes’ instead of a battle?” By the time we were ready to present to H.R. and the C.E.O., we had already gotten feedback and support on the proposal from two directors.

What do you think made your proposal effective?

It was important to tie the paid leave policy back to the company’s values. Since one of our core values is “we want you to make a life, not just a living,” we felt the company should show people that they have the support of the team when they need to take leave and after they return. I also presented statistics that showed people who take paid leave are more likely to return to work, increased their productivity, and felt a greater connection to their workplace.

It was also really important to have the actual details of the proposed policy planned out. It removed a large part of the work from the leadership team if we presented the specifics of the policy so that leadership could visualize what it would look like in reality. For example, we want X weeks, Y is covered, Z isn’t covered, etc. We also presented what the average cost to the company would be under these various plans. It was a matter of trying to anticipate the leadership’s concerns and preemptively addressing them in the proposal. They already believed in the idea of paid family leave, but just needed to be more convinced.

Was there any pushback that you received, and how did you address it?

Since we’re a small team with less than 50 staff members, the main concern was around how we would handle people being out of the office, so we needed to make sure that we had protocol in place. For example, if someone knows they’ll be needing to take leave, they’ll let H.R. know in advance, work with their colleagues to make sure their responsibilities are divided up, and so forth.

It was also important to make sure that our company culture supported parental leave in general, not just for new mothers, and that we had the necessary systems in place so that everyone who qualified would be supported to take advantage of the paid leave policy. And as it turns out, the very first person to use our new paid leave policy was a first-time father!

What advice would you offer to someone who’s trying to change paid leave policy at their workplace?

Don’t give up! Be persistent and know that what you’re doing is important. There’s a ripple effect of how it’ll impact the people around you. A “no” is just a “no” right now. So don’t be afraid to figure out another option if your initial proposal is not in the cards at the current moment. If you believe in something, especially in something as important as paid family leave, you can do it! It just takes one person and some allies on your side to make a difference.

Internet Creation’s paid leave policy includes eight weeks parental leave with 100% wage replacement, with the option for a gradual return-to-work plan. Birth mothers receive short-term disability in addition to parental leave.