Nothing has changed me quite like having a daughter. Sure, there are all the cliches about having a gun sitting in your lap when boys come over. That’s the easy stuff. The hard stuff is instilling beliefs in your daughter that will serve her well in the face of what at times feels like overwhelming forces.
“Conservative” Christian culture institutionalizes the treatment of women as 2nd class citizens. Women can do anything they want, as long as they don’t want to run things. Take care of kids? Sure! Make sure we all have food? You bet! Hold a leadership position over a male? Um, no.
If we honestly believe that this bias, created inside the church, does not bleed over into how we act in the business world, we’re delusional. We can’t expect our daughters to, week after week at church, see only males in leadership everywhere they look, be told that’s how it’s actually SUPPOSED to work, and not carry that with them into other parts of their lives!
We’ve tried to instill in our daughter:
You deserve to be treated with respect, as an equal in every way, to any man in every situation. Period
God has gifted you with unique gifts, gifts that you owe back to the world. Some of those gifts are uniquely yours as a woman. You should cherish them above all others.
When you play, play to win. And be pissed when you don’t
There’s nothing you can’t do, provided that you’re willing to do the work
Don’t let any man in position over you put you in a vulnerable position or abuse their power. Ever.
Stand on your own two feet, and expect any partner in your life to do the same
The challenge for me, as she’s gotten older (she’s now nearly 18), is that I actually had to look myself in the mirror and ask: Do I really believe all of this?
I decided to regularly ask the question:
Would I be OK if someone was treating or thinking about my daughter like this?
It was shocking how often the answer was “No.” It was embarrassing. It was humbling.
So I did something about it.
I started scheduling meetings with successful women where I live and asking questions I didn’t particularly want to hear the answers to
I started changing my vocabulary from male-centric to more neutral
I sought out women who were starting companies and offered my support and expertise and stopped thinking that I was doing them a favor by doing so
I actively removed “for a woman” from my internal monologue. You know the one: “She’s a good engineer (for a woman)...” or “She’s a great founder (for a woman)”
I studied the particular issues related to female founders in depth
I read as much as I could find about women building amazing companies
I started paying attention to how I treated women in meetings or professional settings and, where necessary, apologizing when I said or did something dumb
I started intentionally scheduling female founders for my podcast, and have dedicated 2018 to interviewing ONLY female founders
More than anything, I listened
What I’ve learned has been nothing short of remarkable. The women I’ve spoken to have been so generous with their time and helping me to understand how things really are (both the good and the bad). They’ve not treated me like an idiot (which they easily could have), but they’ve not pulled any punches either. They’ve been inspiring to be around, and some of the most humble and thoughtful leaders I’ve met.
These are the women (outside of my amazing wife) who I point my daughter to and say “This is what’s possible.”
I don’t know if my daughter will ever start her own company or be an entrepreneur. What I do know is that if she does, she’ll only ever hear one thing from me.
Go! Go! Go!