At SWSG, we talk a lot about strong female role models. Everyday, in fact. Female role models are incredibly important to girls and women of every age. SWSG is founded on that principal and I believe it to my core. But, as Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of dads and other strong male role models in the development of strong women.
The positive effects of an involved father have been widely studied over the last few decades. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that children with involved fathers have higher IQs, better verbal skills and higher academic achievement during adolescence. Children with involved fathers are less likely to experience depression and have better social skills and a higher degree of independence. Girls whose fathers are involved in their lives have better body images, higher self esteem, and are more assertive.
People ask me all the time about the effect that my mother had on my development as a feminist. My mom has shown me that, as a woman, it is possible to have it all. She was one of the first female physicians on the faculty of UC Davis School of Medicine. She raised two (perfect) children. She shows me everyday what a strong woman looks like.
In these conversations, however, people rarely ask about my father. But the truth is that my father had just as much to do with my development as a strong woman, albeit in a quieter, subtler way. My dad did more than simply show up. He showed me how to balance a career as a physician with active participation with family just as much as my mother did. He was the art docent in my elementary school. I don’t know that anything made me prouder in the fourth grade than having my dad come into school and teach us about Rembrandt and Monet. My dad made me pancakes before soccer games and cheered at all of my opening night performances. He taught me kindness. He supported my brother and I equally. He encouraged my interests in all things. He went running with me and took me golfing. My dad taught me my sense of humor. He encouraged me to be myself, and he wouldn’t accept anything but my best.
My dad taught me not to settle for a partnership that wasn’t equal. He showed me that a strong man shares domestic duties in the same way that he shares economic responsibility. He showed me that I deserve the kind of love, support, and respect that he shows my mother every day.
As a young adult, I still learn from my dad every time I talk to him. Whether he is coaching me on how to perform do it yourself plumbing, teaching me the electrical mechanism of the heart, or giving me a pep talk about my never-ending job search, his wisdom is kind, brilliant, and yet subtle. In fact, he may not think that I hear it. But I do- every time.
I’m not the only woman who is lucky to have the perfect father. This Father’s Day, I’d like to celebrate all of the strong male role models who are actively seeking to help the girls in their lives become strong women. We don’t talk about you enough. Thank you.