President Obama is a feminist. So is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau . Both men claim that their children helped inspire their commitment to helping create a world where women and men have an equal shot at their dreams, unburdened by stereotypes and outdated expectations.
"When you're the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society," President Obama wrote in Glamour recently.
I'll never be a father, or course, but I'm betting it's not only world leaders who feel this way. All parents' hopes and fears for their children reshape their views of the world. Looking at my daughter brings our many challenges into sharper focus and transmutes vague wishes for a better world into a commitment to act.
But what action should fathers concerned about the world their daughters will inherit take? There's plenty dads can do to rid the world of sexism, but perhaps the boldest of them all is raising their daughters to expect nothing less than equality, and to let themselves as dream as big as their imaginations' allow. On Quartz recently Jackie Bischoff celebrated her own father and offered excellent advice on how to do just that, including these tips:
1. Be egalitarian at home.
You can't pass on a trait you don't possess, so if you want your daughter to demand a world where she's treated as an equal, make sure you take on an equal share of domestic drudgery at home.
"Parents who share household duties like cooking and doing laundry demonstrate to their children that roles don't have to be determined by gender, and research has shown this equal division of labor can have a direct impact on girls' ambitions," Bischoff writes. "In the study (pdf), involving interviews with more than 300 children in Canada, researchers found that in households where the mother and father shared duties, girls tended to have bigger career aspirations than in homes where mom's did more of the work."
2. Express your confidence in her.
You're a dad, so of course you want to protect your daughter, but if you want her to learn to navigate the world with confidence, you need to express (and demonstrate) your belief that she has the ability to handle her own challenges. That means letting her take care of herself and even take a few knocks sometimes.
"Fathers can express their confidence in their daughters in a number of ways," claims Bischoff, who mentions supporting daughters' calculated risks, introducing them to travel, and encouraging them to pursue challenging activities like running or camping.
3. Expose her to male-dominated fields.
Work in engineering, finance, or construction? Then you have a leg-up when it comes to exposing your daughter to areas of life that she otherwise might conclude are "for boys." But even if your office is an equal mix of genders, there's plenty you can do to communicate that all areas of endeavor are open to women.
"According to research by Dr. Nilanjana Dasgupta, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst," writes Bischoff, "it's crucial for fathers to talk to their daughters about their work and engage with them in related activities, whether that means experimenting with baking soda volcanoes at home or playing coding games together."
4. Talk about sexism.
Your first impulse might be to shield your daughter from the unpleasant reality of sexism for as long as possible, but frankly discussing early encounters with the unenlightened and how to handle them will pay dividends. "Talking through how to deal with a teacher who calls on boys more than girls, for example, lets girls know that their voices deserve to be heard," explains Bischoff.
5. Create an open dialogue.
In a world where women's voices are frequently undervalued or even silenced, the simple act of discussing important topics openly and respectfully with your daughter can teach her a valuable lesson -- you are entitled to speak your mind and your opinion is as valid and valued as any other. Bischoff's father even paid her a dollar or so for five minutes of spirited discussion on a topic of her choice.
"The tradition (still ongoing) did teach me to have confidence in the value of my opinion and how to articulate my beliefs in a debate," she reports.
What other advice would you offer fathers who hope to raise strong, successful daughters?