I recently met a man who told me he reads Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to his daughters before bed.
As an attentive father, this man professed some of the multitude of ways in which he attempts to give his girls the best possible opportunities in life. For him, programming and technology have provided freedom, and he wants his daughters to have the same opportunities.
One night after watching an Olympic gymnastics meet together as a family, he found his 6-year-old in another room, with a stopwatch, training to be the next Simone Biles. Clearly this little girl has big dreams and is easily motivated. On the other hand, her younger sister does not share the same motivations. She is inspired by different stories and ideas.
Over tea, the man confided that his wife had recently challenged him to consider whether the heroic celebration will send the wrong message to his girls — that you must be a high achiever to live a good life. We discussed the merits of celebrating heroes without making little ones feel inadequate. He mentioned that even for his two daughters, reactions to praise and motivation vary greatly between them.
After realizing that his older daughter was so motivated to achieve, my friend changed his tactic. Instead of pointing out every example of success that he thought she would relate to, they started to talk about failures.
Everyone is different. Every little girl needs heroes of her own.
Making an Impact
Within the tech industry, the culture and the story is improving. It may not be obvious from the news, but the fact that we are calling out the bad guys shows that expectations are changing. A hard-working woman or man with a good foundation can have just about any career they want, though selecting the right company culture will always be important.
For women, technical abilities are usually not the biggest career challenge.
Breaking Down Barriers
Men like my friend are an important part of the solution.
By 2030 when his oldest daughter enters the workforce, there will be more women in tech. Efforts like BRAID Research Initiative’s Pilot program have already started to have an impact on Harvey Mudd’s Computer Science statistics will catch on and have an impact, though it will take time. Culture will evolve creating better programs for a more diverse workforce.
Though technical ability is important, it usually isn’t the biggest career challenge for women. Rebel girls need more than technical skills to succeed. They also need to be able to:
– Feel comfortable standing out and being different.
– Recognize their unique value.
– Effectively communicate with and lead a male-dominated group.
– Negotiate — not just better salaries, but also through team dynamics.
Dear Fathers and Mentors:
Take interest in what motivates the women in your life. Teach them everything you know. Help them realize their strengths and how valuable they are. Offer the same opportunities to your girls and your boys, and teach them to recognize the unique value in each other. Explore the world with them. While they are little, read them bedtime stories of badass women from history so they dream of conquering the world.