Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.
There's lots of talk about how we can inspire more women to become entrepreneurs or get into science and technology, but I believe dads play a strong role in making that happen.
While girls in my elementary school were already getting pregnant and being groomed by the community and their families to become stay-at-home moms, my dad was instilling in me firm a belief that the world was my oyster. His parenting has undoubtedly shaped me into the fearless female entrepreneur I have become.
Dads, here's what you can do to help your daughters become badasses, no matter what they want to become:
1. Sharpen their minds like a sword.
Since my earliest memories, driving in the car with my biologist dad meant there was a new math, science, or word problem for me to solve. He always encouraged me to ask questions and to think about how and why things work--whether it was something outdoors in nature or how someone was trying to influence other people's decisions.
Teach your daughters strong critical thinking skills and empower them to ask "why" so they can make better decisions for themselves.
2. Encourage risk taking.
My dad taught me to be a daredevil. Whether it was jumping off the roof with a rope swing or traveling solo around the world as a teenager, he encouraged me to be just as fearless as any boy--if not more so.
I started my company at one of the lowest points in my life when I was more broke than I had ever been. Just about everyone I knew thought I was reckless and crazy; they all told me to try to go get a job with Google--but not my dad.
He reminded me that if I didn't do this now, when would I ever do it? And better yet: if you have nothing, what do you really have to lose?
3. Tell them to not care about what others think about them.
In today's world of social media, it's becoming really hard for people to not care about what others think. While my mom and I haven't always loved my dad wearing calf-high wool green military socks and a floppy outdoors hat, I've really come to respect how he lives his life the way he wants to, without caring what others think. It's kind of the ultimate freedom.
While everyone likes to praise entrepreneurs once they've become successful, a lot of the time you'll be wildly unpopular or uncool. People will ridicule you and try to tear you down, but if you're going to survive the endless roller coaster of entrepreneurship, you can't let them get to you.
4. Always have their backs.
I've been a rule-breaking rebel since kindergarten. The world is a much friendlier place for girls now than it was for my mother or grandmothers, but girls still have plenty of things up against them. I got in a lot of trouble in elementary school for rejecting gender norms and going against outdated rules and chauvinistic policies, and no matter how many times the Principal would call my house, my dad always had my back.
Just knowing my dad was always there for me--even if the most he could give me was his sympathetic ear--meant a lot. This still gives me the strength to keep hustling and persevering on the toughest days.
5. Teach them to be independent.
I've never heard my dad say, "Don't worry, a boy/man can do that for you." He always taught me to believe that I am capable of doing anything I wanted to do with enough hard work and the right strategy.
Since about age four, he encouraged me to look for opportunities to make my own money--whether that was picking walnuts for cash, selling fruit, or some other side hustle. He also helped me open my own bank account and showed me how to save and invest my money. By the time I was five, I had saved over a hundred dollars and was buying the toys I wanted with my own money.
6. Praise their minds and work ethic --rather than looks.
Rather than focusing on my appearance, my dad gave me recognition for getting good grades, solving hard problems, and learning new things. Instead of saying things like, "You're so pretty," I would hear, him say "I'm so proud of you; you're such a hard-worker" or "You're so smart; you can do anything."
While these things are simple, dad's comments can have a huge impact on their daughter's sense of self-worth and how they shape their identities and career paths.
7. Love them even when they fail.
My dad has often been the first person I called when I'm facing a crisis. I always know that I can tell him anything, and that he will listen to my problems without judging me for my mistakes. He always ends these conversations with, "Okay, I wish you the best of luck, but just know I love you no matter what."
And somehow that always makes daunting challenges and failure a little bit less scary.