In my last few blog posts, I’ve been presenting a series of tips for raising entrepreneurial girls. These tips include helping girls embrace and learn from failure, encouraging their sense of creativity and allowing them the freedom to explore ideas from different angles. Here we look at an important tip that starts at the home: getting dads involved in teaching and encouraging entrepreneurialism in their daughters.
When it comes to raising girls with the curiosity, the courage and the gumption to embrace their inner entrepreneurs, moms can play a crucial part as role models, facilitators, and cheerleaders. But dads also really matter—especially in today’s world, where most of the people who are deeply engaged in business leadership and technology creation continue to be male.
Our experience with the fathers of the girls we work with has shown us what happens when dads embrace teaching their daughters about technology and entrepreneurship. Dads tells us that their daughters are surpassing their expectations, that they’re creating inventions in their garage and even talking about selling their products. Such dads are a critical means for providing exposure, engagement, and encouragement for their daughters’ success in life.
Consider Mary Barra, who made history when she was named CEO of General Motors in 2014. She is not simply a woman at the helm of a $150 billion company, or the first women to lead a major automaker. She is an electrical engineer.
Barra joins the slim ranks of CEOs who have come not from finance, but from product design and manufacturing. Mary Barra might seem as comfortable on the shop floor as in the boardroom. That’s because she makes things. And her father helped her realize her potential not only to explore her engineering talents, but to think even beyond those considerable gifts and how she could be of service to others. (In 2014, Time magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.)
Barra’s father worked for GM’s Pontiac division, where he was a journeyman die-maker and a member of the United Auto Workers union. He helped his daughter explore her interests as she grew. When Mary Barra’s curling iron broke, for example, she and her father brought it down to their basement workshop for tinkering. They took it apart and tried to put it back together—which didn’t always work out. But no matter—this activity, and the interest her father showed in doing it with her, sparked Mary Barra’s interest in how things worked, what made them run, how the pieces fit together. Mary Barra’s father shared with his daughter the rudiments of engineering.
Mary Barra began her career at GM when she was 18, as a student, and moved ahead in a variety of engineering and administrative positions that included managing the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant, then becoming vice president of global manufacturing engineering, vice president of global human resources and executive vice president of global product development, before becoming CEO in 2014, a remarkable trajectory fueled by native talent and the encouragement of a devoted and boundary-breaking father.
The fathers of many successful women in science and technology encouraged them in their endeavors, and helped them overcome the restraints that society still places on women in sciences.
In my next post on tips for raising entrepreneurial girls, I explore the importance of starting this process of teaching entrepreneurialism when these girls are quite young. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how, in your experience, your father, or the father of your daughter or the girls in your life, encouraged girls on their path to becoming entrepreneurs. Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate your comments!