A few weeks ago I was driving with my daughter looking for a parking spot on a very narrow street. We found a great one – only a guy was doubled parked at the spot in front of us with his daughter in the car (making it impossible to park). I gently honked and asked him to move up a bit so I can park. He turned his head, looked at me, then turned his head back as if he never heard or saw me. I opened the window and explained that I was trying to park and if he could move the car up, yet no response. So, I put the car in reverse (quite angrily), and started to park. Suddenly the guy rolled down his window and started yelling; “What are you doing!?! You are a woman! You can’t park like that! You will scratch my car! You women don’t know how to drive!”
Stunned, surprised and angry – I continued to park while he continued to yell and honk his horn (eventually moving his car forward so it “wouldn’t scratch”).
Later on that day, especially after hearing my daughter tell the story to her brother and father, I couldn’t help but think:
- What an idiot
- What type of an example is this idiot setting for his daughter
- What type of a woman can his daughter grow up to be when these are the stereotypical sentences she hears from her father
- I want my daughter to grow up totally free of ANY stereotypes. I want my daughter growing up thinking and believing she can be anything (and do anything) she sets her mind to.
It was that moment I knew I was going to take my daughter’s education into my own hands. Our kids learn a lot of important lessons in school – math, sciences, literature, etc. However there are many other aspects of education, especially in our ever changing world today, that unfortunately are lacking in schools. Understanding and facing stereotypes is something that she will need to be prepared for. So I read, questioned and thought about it; Following are top 7 things I will make sure to do when raising and educating my daughter:
- Never ever tell her she can’t (or shouldn’t) do something because she is a girl. I know this is a given – but even if she wants to do/try things that may seem weird (as sometimes we are guilty of stereotypes) I will always support her.
- Encourage her to play with both boys and girls. Encourage play dates with boys. There is an age where girls and boys tend to drift into their own groups. I personally think it’s important to have boy friends at younger ages and have play time include games that both genders enjoy. That way it’s not always about dolls, makeup and dresses.
- Mix chores around the house. Who usually changes the light bulbs? Takes down the garbage? Fills up the gas? It’s important for your daughter to see that you (mom) take care of the physical stuff too. By the way, if you have boys – it’s equally important to have them/dad take care of chores like washing dishes, folding laundry, etc so they aren’t guilty of gender stereotypes as well.
- Pay attention to her homework/things she learns at school. Unfortunately our school’s textbooks and curriculum is not always updated and it’s important to follow up what it is she is learning and to talk about it. Our histories are filled with male leaders, presidents and heroes while less women are presented. It’s important she understands why it was like that and how different the world is today.
- Talk to her about stereotypes and gender discrimination. Explain to her that as she grows there will be kids and adults that might question, judge and criticize certain things she might do or decisions she might make. Of course she shouldn’t let that bother her. I want to make sure she knows we (her family) will always support her!
- She shouldn’t always take no for an answer. If she truly believes in what she wants and is trying to do, she should fight for it. There will be many “no”s in her life for many different reasons. They are discouraging and frankly it sucks to hear “No” about something you are passionate about. I want her to know that she should always keep pushing and keep trying. There are nearly no successes without failures!
- If you are a working mom, take her to work with you!
Number 7 is closest to my heart. I work in tech. I lead an infrastructure group in the IT dept of our company. I have around 20-30 people reporting to me – all men. Before I started working in IT I worked for the R&D dept. There I had a bigger team with a few girls, however the ratio was still very much in favor of male team members. It is so important for me to take my daughter to work for so many reasons. First, to see what I do and what my every day is like. Second, for her to see my interactions with different people (especially if I am presenting at a meeting or speaking to the team). Third to try and instill in her that as long as she works hard, anything is possible.
I love my work and I love my team – but at times I can’t help but wonder why there are still so many fields out there today with so few females. I truly believe that if we push our daughters to do anything and everything their heart desires we will slowly see the “male: female” ratios rise, the work force change and women getting and having many more opportunities than ever. Hopefully once our little girls grow older the world will be a little more equal and better for them.