My 11-year-old daughter recently asked me, "Do you make more money than Mommy?" Her class was studying the Revolutionary War and had discussed how married women of the time essentially forfeited their legal earnings to their husbands. The teacher pointed out that women continue to face unequal treatment today in the form of wage inequality, which prompted my daughter's question. I love that she's never been one to shy away from asking questions, but in this case I didn't have a great answer to explain why this gap exists.
As a father, I want my daughters to have and do anything in the world they desire. If they work hard, respect others, and believe in themselves it should be possible. Unfortunately, there are still places and environments where women don't get their fair share.
Even with tremendous amounts of progress being made, gender inequality continues to trouble our society. There's the well-documented wage gap between male and female workers in the same jobs. Women remain underrepresented on corporate boards and in tech leadership, even though research shows gender diversity benefits a company's bottom line. And there's the sense that Silicon Valley and tech culture, in general, are unwelcoming towards women.
Reminders like these keep me vigilant about rooting out unconscious bias and ensuring everyone at my company has equal opportunities to have an impact. They also remind me to make sure my daughters understand the world around them and why they should never give up in the face of adversity. Here are three things I tell my daughters so they'll approach their futures with confidence and determination.
Occupy Space and Let Your Presence Fill A Room
Girls continue to feel pressure from outside forces to stay quiet, reserved, and not rock the boat. Imagine all of the great ideas that never saw the light of day because girls believed it wasn't their place to speak up.
This same self-censorship happens in professional circles. A recent Udemy engagement survey found a disconnect between men's and women's responses to questions about communication style and quality in the workplace (e.g., "when I speak up, my opinion is valued.") Overall, 80 percent of respondents reported that their statements were met favorably. However, when broken out by gender, 85 percent of men responded favorably compared to 73 percent of women--evidence that nearly a quarter of women may be hesitant to voice opinions.
I tell my daughters to fill space, make themselves heard, and resist the temptation to internalize their ideas and opinions. I make sure they know what they say has merit and to openly share their ideas without fear of reprisal. Many beleaguered museum docent can attest to my 11-year-old's insatiable curiosity and inquisitiveness, and I hope she never loses those qualities.
Education is Key to Achievement
In life, I want my daughters to be prepared for hardships that may come their way. I tell them to be confident in their intelligence and ability but not naive about obstacles. They've already seen first-hand that not everyone will support them on their journeys, but I remind them anything is possible if they're willing to work hard, stay true to themselves, and take their education seriously--and I don't say that just because I work at an education company.
I help my daughters actively explore their interests and work hard to give them the opportunity to learn more about those interests, whether it be an extracurricular activity or help with a difficult math problem. Education is a powerful tool, and it's fantastic when my girls discover something new that makes them want to learn.
Notice All of the Important Women Around You
I want my daughters to see how women and men are working toward positive change by advocating for girls all over the world. It's so important for girls to have highly visible female role models, people like Malala, Michelle Obama, and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code.
Closer to home, my 11-year-old's school principal Diana Hallock is another great role model. She transformed an underperforming school into a true magnet that's become so popular, local kids who once shunned it now compete to get in. In the early days, however, Diana would arrive at work at 6am and clean bathrooms, if that needed to get done. As a role model, she showed my kids how important and rewarding it is to follow through on your mission and silence any doubters along the way.
Similarly, I was thrilled when two Udemy employees were named among the Bay Area's most influential women in business by the San Francisco Business Times: Claire Hough, our SVP of engineering, and Alexandra Sepulveda, our deputy general counsel. Women like Claire and Alexandra are helping pave the way for future generations, mobilizing women to thrive professionally and socially for the long term. They're role models I tell my girls about too.
My hope for my daughters is that, by the time they enter the workforce, we will have achieved parity between genders. That's the world our daughters, and sons, deserve.