Monday, February 23, 2009

Dads Influence Daughters’ Career Paths

More evidence trickles in about dads' influence on daughters.

According to today's New York Times online, University of Maryland researchers find that fathers have a marked influence on their daughters’ career paths by passing on job skills and work interests.

According to the Times, the researchers “used various data sets to study the career paths of 63,000 women born between 1909 and 1977. … About 6 percent of women born in the first decade of the study worked in the same field as their fathers. But about 18 percent of women born in the last decade of the study followed their fathers’ footsteps.”

The study used various criteria to try and isolate how much of the shift was due to parental influence, and I think their assumptions make good sense.
I found a lot of father influence on daughters’ career choices while doing interviews for my book Dads & Daughters®: How to Inspire, Support and Understand Your Daughter. Over an over, adult women who had strong, healthy relationships with their dads told of the sense of agency and interest their fathers conveyed in regard to work and career.

Of course, career is just one of the infinite ways a dad influences his daughter or stepdaughter. So make sure your influence is positive by taking an active role in supporting her, taking her seriously and listening to her!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Girl Scouts Battle Cyberbullying

The Girl Media Maven blog has info an a new Girls Scouts of the USA initiative to help girls battle cyberbullying (i.e., online harrassment). Be sure to check out the link for parents, too.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dads Impact Girls’ Math Interest

Dads have a major impact on the degree of interest their daughters develop in math. That's one of the findings of a long-term University of Michigan study that has traced the sources of the continuing gender gap in math and science performance.

(Chart: Number of math and science items purchased for boys and girls by parents.)
"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.
Researchers found that girls' interest in math decreases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase, whereas boys' interest in math increases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase."Fathers' gender stereotypes are very important in supporting—or in undermining—daughters' choices to pursue training in math and science," Davis-Kean said.
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.

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.

(Chart: Impact of father’s gender stereotypes on son’s and daughter’s interest in math.)

Davis-Kean and colleagues also found that parents' attitudes, particularly stereotypes they hold about whether math and science are more important for boys than for girls, have a significant effect on their children's later math achievement, and even on their eventual career choices.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love Shouldn’t Hurt

If you've followed the news about Chris Brown's recent arrest, have you also been thinking about the disgrace of dating violence?

I spent most of Wednesday at the Minnesota State Capitol for 3 rallies related to ending family and partner violence. 1) A “Second Chance” coalition supporting resources for people leaving prison—so that they find work, learn healthier ways to settle conflict, and don’t return to prison. 2) the Men’s Action Network, an alliance to prevent sexual and domestic violence (sadly, even in 2009, there were 10 times as many women as men at this rally) and 3) the MN domestic violence coalition, which honored (under the Capitol rotunda) all those murdered in 2008 because of domestic violence.

Domestic and partner violence doesn’t spring up in a vacuum out of nowhere. It often begins in the beginnings of intimate relationships—dating.

Charles Blow collects and shares some frightening statistics about dating violence on the NY Times blogs this morning. Be sure to read it:

And then, be sure to take some action to short circuit dating violence.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dads & Daughters® Valentine's Day Tips

Don't let Valentine's Day be just one more chance for Dad to feel like a walking, talking (and unappreciated) checkbook. These Dads & Daughters® Tips will help fathers and stepfathers to show daughters that they care on Valentine's Day and beyond.

1. Remember, a Daughter hungers for healthy involvement and attention from Dad (even if she doesn't always show it).

2. A Daughter wants assurance that her Father and/or Stepfather really knows her and cares about her.

3. A Daughter wants to feel that Dad is proud of her and that he loves and understands her.

4. A Daughter wants these intangibles far more than she wants a box of candy or any other present or card.

5. Daughters sometimes feel that Dads only know how to show their love by buying something. So supplement this year's store-bought Valentine's card and candy with your unique message of love.

6. Give her a hand-written note or personal email -- in your own words -- telling her how proud you are of her, what you admire about her, how much you enjoy your time together, etc.

7. Give her the greatest gift of all: your time. Listen to what she has to say and what's important to her.

8. Spend 1-on-1 time together on Valentine's Day or the next available weekend. See a movie, take a walk, go out for coffee or ice cream, play catch. There are a million possibilities (for more ideas, see The Dads & Daughters® Togetherness Guide: 54 Fun Activities to Help Build a Great Relationship).

9. Remember that she only gets one chance to have you as her Dad or Stepdad while she's still a girl.

10. Out of the thousand things you do every day, make sure you always give attention, thought, time, and affection to your Daughter -- and your Son.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day with your children! Learn more about healthy fathering of girls at

© Joe Kelly. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Abiding Power of Pippi

Astrid Lindgren was on to something. Lindgren was the Swedish author who created Pippi Longstocking--a book translated into more than 50 languages. It’s no wonder that children—especially girls—are so drawn to its protagonist.

Pippi is always irreverent, and straightforwardly rude to the pompous adults who seem to populate so many children’s lives. If you and your daughter have never read Pippi Longstocking, put down this issue, go to the library, and borrow it. If you have read it, you know that Pippi is the gleeful 9-year-old orphaned daughter of a sea captain.
Backed up by the captain’s treasure chest of gold coins, she lives alone in Villa Villekulla, with only a horse and monkey for company. Pippi has moved in next door to two average, well-behaved children named Tommy and Annika, who quickly fall into Pippi’s orbit.

Tommy and Annika represent the book’s readers as they learn how fun, constructive, and reasonable it is for a girl to run her own life, ignoring the judgments other people cast on her behavior or her bright red stick-out ponytails. These are the elements that made Pippi Longstocking an international sensation.

In its obituary for Lindgren, the New York Times quoted a 1985 interview in which the author discussed Pippi’s impact:
“Bertrand Russell has written that a child dreams about power as grown-ups dream sexual wish dreams. This is a child who has power. That is wonderful, for children to think, ‘Oh, if I were like Pippi! I could say to Father, ‘You don’t do that!’ She has power, but she never misuses that power, which I think is the most splendid thing, and the most difficult.”

Lindgren’s words, and her archetypal Pippi, confirm one of the most important realities about our daughters, and one of the key challenges we face as their parents: Our daughters have power—real power, not the faux “Girl Power” merchandised to sell them Power- Puff Girls lunch boxes. They have the power to say no or yes—power it can be delightful to use, as Pippi demonstrates.

How does she do it? Pippi gives free reign to her power because she’s unfettered by adults’ interference. Of course, Pippi Longstocking is a fairy tale, and real girls have adults overseeing their lives. And that’s where a big parental challenge lies, because our supervision can so easily become stifling.

We have to walk a fine line between overprotecting them and providing our daughters the opportunity (and freedom) to exercise their power. And I mean exercise in the literal sense—try it out, see how it works, test its limits, strengthen its positive effect. That’s counterintuitive for parents.

Usually, when we think about “empowering” girls, we think of giving them the power to say no to threats and violations of their bodies. What’s different about Pippi is that she seizes her innate power and uses it to say yes to honesty, creativity, and the excitement of being alive.

It’s unsettling to consider allowing our daughters to exercise their power. They might, like Pippi, do something we consider outrageous, such as inviting a horse to dinner. But our daughters need their power to be fully alive. It’s like a muscle; it needs exercise, practice, and honing to work its best.

Perhaps our goal might be to say of our own daughters what Astrid Lindgren once said of Pippi: They have power, and they use it wisely.