Little girls always seem to have their fathers wrapped around their little fingers. They smile their sweet little smiles and throw their tiny arms around you, and you feel like the biggest strongest man in the world. What wouldn't you do for her? You will protect her from all the world's evils. You will teach her how to drive, how to dance, and how effective a good old-fashioned knee to the groin can be. You will be there for her, celebrating every milestone- each birthday, her high school graduation, the day she goes to college, and her wedding day (although there is no man who will truly deserve her.) She will always be your little girl.
Just as girls have a tremendous power over their dads, so do men have a great responsibility for shaping the woman that little girl will become. By your words and actions, you will pass along your particular meme for gender identity. She will learn how to make herself attractive to the opposite sex by batting her eyelashes at you. Humans are highly adapted social creatures. We aren't exactly mind-readers, but we are capable of transmitting an unbelievable amount of information through non-verbal cuing. You may think you are telling her one thing, but she may be hearing something else.
"We've known for a while now that females do as well as males on tests that measure ability in math and science," said Pamela Davis-Kean, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "But women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math graduate programs and in careers based on those disciplines."
It's as if women are saying, "I can, but I don't want to," according to Davis-Kean.
Why don't they want to? Could it be because women who go against traditional gender roles, the brave few who thumb their noses at the patriarchy, becoming mathematicians or engineers, aren't exactly filling up their dance cards? Don't misunderstand. Any man who doesn't want to be with a strong, intellectual, independent woman isn't worth a damn, in my book. Any man who can't handle being with a woman who is smarter than him, or makes more money, is a small, sad, little golem. And you probably feel that way, too. I'm sure you tell her she can be anything she wants to be. You would be proud of her whether she was the prom queen or president of the math club. But actions, oh how they speak louder than words.
In a study presented recently at a campus meeting, Davis-Kean and colleagues analyzed how parents' values and attitudes affect children's math performance and later interest, and how these attitudes vary by the child's gender. They used data from a longitudinal study of more than 800 children and a large group of their parents that began in 1987 and continued through 2000.It isn't enough to simply tell her all the things she can be; you have to make her want to be them. There are organizations galore devoted to promoting women in the sciences. The Society for Women Engineers is one I have mentioned in the past, but there are myriad others. None of them have the power to shape a young girl's image of what a woman can be more than daddy.
They found that parents provided more math-supportive environments for their sons than for their daughters, including buying more math and science toys for the boys. They also spent more time on math and science activities with their sons than with their daughters.
You're a modern man. You've left that Victorian chauvinism behind. You believe women are your equals. At least, that's what you always say. But do you really mean it? Ask your daughter what she wants to be when she grows up. You might be unpleasantly surprised.