Last summer, I was invited to take part in an employee panel discussion about gender in the workplace at Unilever Canada. It was an honour to be invited and to be sitting next to such accomplished women. The discussion was honest, insightful and fun. I left feeling truly inspired and encouraged for the future.
What was especially encouraging was the number of men sitting in the audience. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a room full of women—which would be amazing as well—but these discussions are so much more impactful when men take part in them. Not only were men present, they were very engaged.
The reason I am reminiscing about this now is because of one question that was asked by a dad in the audience. He told us he has a young daughter and asked what he, as a man and dad, can do to make sure his daughter grows up with the confidence that she can accomplish anything. My fellow panelists, who all happened to be moms, provided some awesome responses about teaching her by example at home. Being supportive of his wife’s aspirations, sharing in parenting and sharing household duties are all ways to show his daughter that her professional goals are just as important as a man’s.
But in that moment, I couldn’t think of anything to say myself. Part of the reason may be because I am not yet a parent so it was hard to relate. I was also overcome with emotion by this man’s genuine desire to give his daughter every benefit in life, so my mind just went temporarily blank. In any case, the question has stayed with me ever since and I find myself wondering the same thing about my hypothetical future daughter. What will I, as a parent, do to make sure my daughter grows up to be a strong, confident, ambitious woman?
To the young dad in the audience that day, here are a few things I wish I would’ve said.
- Help your daughter understand that her self-worth comes from within and not from what others, especially boys, think of her.
- Teach her that other girls are not her competition but her best allies and they should support each other.
- Teach her that her body and sexuality are neither a display piece, nor something she should be ashamed of.
- Teach her that being assertive and standing your ground does not make you bitchy or bossy, it makes you strong.
- Teach her that being brave, smart and speaking your mind is more important than being cute.
- Lastly, make sure she knows to surround herself with people who will respect all these qualities about her instead of trying to bring her down.
With a dad like you, I have no doubt your daughter will grow up to be an amazing woman.
Thank you to all the dads and men who are joining these discussions and helping to make a difference.
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