Family Matters

Stephanie Ramos is paving the way for expanded paid family leave in New Jersey and beyond.

From the outside, it looked like Stephanie Ramos ’10 couldn’t possibly make policy changes for her entire company. She was a brand-new hire who didn’t work in human resources. She wasn’t a CEO or even a manager. But something compelled her to try anyway.

Just four months into her new job as a social media specialist at the New Jersey tech company Internet Creations, Ramos teamed up with a coworker and developed a proposal to bring paid family leave to IC. Now the policy that they crafted and refined is the company’s official rule.

“I’m still in shock,” says Ramos. “I had a big idea, I proposed it, and people said yes.”

She traces the spark back to 2013, when she read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. That’s when she learned that the United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee its workers paid leave when they welcome new babies or care for sick parents.

New Jersey is one of only four states that require paid family leave—six weeks covered at two-thirds of the employee’s salary—but Ramos thought her company could still do better. The policy she helped design provides eight weeks of paid time off, with the option for a gradual return-to-work schedule spread over 12 weeks total.

When she showed up to present her idea to IC’s board and CEO, Ramos knew it would be a big commitment for the small company. Rather than tugging at heartstrings, she focused on why paid leave is good for business: It boosts employee retention, helps recruit better talent, and keeps workers engaged and happy.

One new parent has already used the leave since it became a policy earlier this year. “When he got back, we talked about how impactful the leave was and how he’s so happy and thankful that he was able to take it,” says Ramos. “I know that it impacted him, his wife, and his new child. And I’m sure the ripple continues to get bigger from there.”

Energized by her policy victory and the current political climate, Ramos is now serving as an elected county committee member and volunteering as a coach for the nonprofit Paid Leave for the United States, where she helps other employees push for better family leave policies.

“I’m trying to put myself out there and show people that you don’t have to be a manager or a director to make an impact,” she says. “You can make an impact here, today, with the tools you have in your hand right now.”

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