Leaders & Daughters - To My Daughter

Ariadne, the Hero of the Labyrinth

 

Dear Ariadne,

The next 15 years I am going to be working for you. Health permitting, I will be working for others as well, clients, colleagues, other people around us. But you will be what some call, my “higher purpose”. You are probably wondering what that means and you are probably thinking that you would rather have me less time working, in the office and at home, and more time playing. Don’t worry, a higher purpose is not something that is achieved in a few weeks, or a few months. It will take a few years. In between, we will also have time to play and to do lots of other exciting things.

What is this higher purpose? It means that in the coming years I will work to try to make sure that when you are grown up this question about women in business, science or politics is not a question any more. That it will not be exceptional to have a women as main protagonist or hero1 of a movie or book, or as a Nobel prize winner or head of state. That it will not be exceptional to have fathers working part time, or taking care of children fulltime. And that you will be able to choose whatever combination of work and family works best for you, and even change your mind about it a few times along the way if you want to.

Did you know that estimates say it will take more than 175 years to achieve gender parity? If that is true, that means that when you finish studying, even if you go to the same school than your brother, and even if you work harder and get better grades, you will have less chances to get a promotion, and, when you get promoted, you will be a minority for the rest of your career, and you will be earning less than your brother forever. And the same for your daughter, if you have one, and the daughter of your daughter.

But you know what: I don’t believe it. And I don’t want you to believe it. It is very important for me that you don’t believe in that number. Until recently, I was not too worried about this subject. I was busy making sure the basics were in place -like the Maslow pyramid we talked about the other day. First the basics for myself, making sure I completed my education, had a good job, a stable family. Then with your older brother, making sure he was cared for, could go to a good school, finding the balance again before looking for you. And then, when you were born, this subject about women started to become really urgent. First, it was only a conversation with myself (like getting upset when observing small acts of discrimination or gender stereotyping, or even crying when I saw videos about social experiments, like the one I have shown you and your brother so many times about kids not believing “the pilot” was a woman). Then, it became a conversation with others: with you, your father and brother, with the few working mothers around me. Now, I almost feel like shouting in public about it.

Some people called me recently an “activist feminist”. Your mom an activist? Impossible, right? In fact, until you were born five years ago, I would not even consider myself a feminist. I went through university without thinking about gender or discrimination because my main objective was to finish school and find a job. Only after somebody that I admire mentioned it to me recently, I realized that it is actually an achievement to be the first person (and a woman!) from my extended family that went to university. Before that, I never even thought about it. I was so focused trying to move forward, I did not realize many things. For example, some recent research shows that from the case studies used at top MBA schools to teach, even very diverse business schools like INSEAD, on average, only 10% of the cases show a woman as protagonist.

I could not believe it. Not the finding as such. But, even as a grown up women, sitting there at the benches of INSEAD, I did not even notice. All these teachers at university, all their PhDs and research on human resources, management, strategy, all their bright students, nobody ever noticed that there were no women in their books and case studies? There are also many studies that show that until girls become 5 or 6 years old they don’t experience gender bias. And then, the influence of all those books without women, all those movies without female heroes, all those pink ads starts to make an impact and their confidence plummets…no wonder!

Ariadne, you are five years old now: don’t let this happen to you, keep your eyes open, question the assumptions, do not believe in the word impossible. Dream big! Just like you do now. You will be able to achieve anything you want to. Whether that is becoming a pilot, a choreographer or the best cook in the world. And even all of them. It will not take 175 years to change things, I promise you.

 

Learn more about EgonZehnder Leaders and Daughters

Recent posts

Stay Fearless Forever

Dear Ruby Carmen, Soon you’ll be turning 3 years old. To celebrate I want to share my hopes and dreams for you: Live life for you. Let your courage grow. Make your moments count and be present. Don’t be afraid. I LOVE...

And Dance – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

To my daughters: It’s special to write to you on Mother’s Day 2018. Today at lunch, we went around the table and shared why we love and appreciate each of our family members. I was honored that you...

3 Simple Things

Sam and Peyton, My most important accomplishment in life is each of you. I am so proud of the young women you have become. As I reflect upon our lives together, there are 3 simple things I would say to always remember:...

The Mother’s Day Gift I Want You To Give Yourself

Dear Cat, A few years ago, I overheard you talking to a friend about work-life balance. You marveled that even as your mother worked a corporate job, she had been to every one of your volleyball games. That was not...

Force of Nature

Dear Jessica, I will let this letter act as a warning to anyone that will try and limit you or your potential in this world. They will be dealing with a formidable force of nature. Your combined Scottish and Italian...

Ma Chère Camille

Ma chère Camille, Aussi loin que je me souviens, tu as toujours su ce que tu voulais. Ta détermination te prédestinait à de grandes choses. Ta discipline scolaire et sportive t’ont toujours démarquée. Aujourd’hui, je...

Yum! Brands’ Greg Creed: Courageous Woman

Dear Lauren, It’s hard to believe that you are turning 30 this year, which only reinforces my belief that the days can be long but the years are always short. It has been a joy and brought me so much pleasure and...

Dear Sowmya and Pallavi,

I am writing to both of you on this platform because I believe I am writing on behalf of all the working mothers. Ours is a unique sisterhood because working moms totally understand each other. I have been a working...

To My Chinese Viking

What can I say about my Chinese/Swedish daughter that hasn’t already been said in Mandarin-Arizona-Local Hawaii talk as she represents Hawaii at the 2018 Distinguished Young Women event in Alabama? You gave toys...