Working fathers raising confident young women

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Earlier this year, Network 25 (Colt’s women’s network) hosted an event on the topic of raising confident young women. We invited four fathers at Colt; Andrew Edison, Ray Aboagye, Rich Anderson, and Werner Kladnik to share their experiences as working dads with daughters.

Why Network 25 ran this event: The research

One of the areas Network 25 focuses on is increasing young women’s participation in STEM activities. Research shows that a barrier for girls to try new things can be a lack of confidence. A YPulse survey in 2018 found from the age of 8 to 14, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30%. The survey also found a confidence gap starts at just 12 years old. At age 14, girls reach their lowest point in self-confidence, and while boys confidence does take a hit in their teens (and this should be acknowledged) boys’ self-confidence is generally 27% higher. One common factor can be parent’s subconscious need to protect their daughters more from taking risks.

An article by The Atlantic states that confidence is essential for turning thoughts into action, and when practised, confidence can accumulate and multiply itself. As risks are taken and the payoff is made evident, a person will gain the courage to take more risks in the future. But on the flip side, the absence of confidence can obstruct the development of behaviours needed to build it back up, like risk-taking, failure, and perseverance. So when risks are avoided, confidence isn’t being built up for the future, which can explain why the confidence gap created at puberty may remain throughout adulthood. This links to why women are more likely to experience imposter syndrome than men.

According to the Ypulse study, fathers are 26% more likely than mothers to accurately estimate how confident their kids are, which is why Network 25 wanted to run this event to open up the discussion with fathers at Colt and to help inspire a generation of confident empowered women.

Key takeaways from our speakers:

During the event, our guest speaker Andrew gave a presentation about how his life experiences have impacted the way he parents, especially with his daughter. Then we heard from our panel – Ray, Rich, and Werner, about their own personal experiences, please see some excerpts below:

Andrew Edison, VP Enterprise & Capital Markets
I encourage my daughter to take on activities outside of school, and I strive to show up and cheer her on when performing and in competition. If mistakes are made when trying something new, I avoid criticism and offer support and encouragement to try again. Children learn by seeing and doing, so now my daughter is a teenager, I think it’s important for her to come into the workplace to see what an office is like and hear about different career paths.

Ray Aboagye, Account Director
What values and attitudes do you want to instil in your daughter while she is young?
My daughter is 5, so while she is young, I want to give her the support and knowledge that she can do anything she sets her mind to. I think it’s really important from a young age she understands the reasons behind why she does things, to encourage independent thinking and ownership. We are doing this by giving her responsibility for simple tasks, like choosing her outfit each day.

Rich Anderson, National Interconnect Manager

How has your relationship changed with your daughters now they are adults?

Now both my daughters are adults, I have become more of an ally and a friend. You never stop being a parent and although they don’t need me as much, they know I am always here to support them. Now I’ve done the ‘hard work’ my main role is to give advice and encourage them to continue being the best person they can be.

Werner Kladnik, International Bid Manager
What advice would you give to fathers raising more than one daughter?
As a father of four daughters, including triplets, my main piece of advice is; one size does not fit all. We have raised our children exactly the same, but the women they’ve become are all completely different, which is a beautiful thing. Raising five children wasn’t easy, so asking for help was essential. Just like the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child”, and we relied on help from our family and friends to raise the kids so we could carry on working full time.

A starting point to encourage confidence in your daughter:

This confidence cheat sheet from the New York Times, is a great starting point to putting thought into actions around this topic.

We also recommend The Confidence Code for Girls, a book full of resources to teach girls to embrace risk, deal with failure, and be their most authentic selves.

Colt’s Network 25 promotes diversity and gender balance at Colt and aims to engage with all employees to enable Colt’s women to thrive. If you’d like to learn more or hear about latest events please contact Network25@colt.net.

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