It was the winter of 2013 and I was elated – I became a father for the first time and it was to a beautiful little girl, a surprise that my wife and I decided to jointly discover at the moment of birth. A short two and a half years later, we were blessed with a second incredible daughter. For a guy that grew up primarily on hockey rinks and baseball fields; a guy that grew up with one brother while living next door to my very close cousins, also boys; one thing was certain, I hadn’t the first clue of how to raise a girl. I did know one thing though, I wanted to raise independent and confident young girls who didn’t accept what was considered normal, rather who would choose their own paths based on what they thought was right for themselves. Maybe I am influenced by having a strong-willed mother or by being married to a strong-willed wife, each of whom charted their own paths through life. Nevertheless, I knew these were qualities that I wanted to instil in my children.
There’s something amazing that happens to fathers when they have daughters. Given how I grew up, I can only speak from my experience, but I suddenly attempted to see the world from the vantage point of a young girl. I really tried to imagine what would be going on in a young mind just experiencing the world and I began to see that parts of the world were heavily slanted in particular directions. Those early glary-eyed trips to the mall on far too little sleep for new parents uncovers some odd things. Why is it that every sleeper for a newborn girl is pink? And by every, I mean, every…single…one. Why are the toddler toys for girls kept completely separate from the toddler toys for boys? And why do those girls’ toys always seem to have something to do with a dollhouse or a tea set? It all seemed odd. As my children grew older, I became particularly attuned to how some of these oddities might manifest themselves in the education my daughters would receive.
Having just gone back for a post-graduate degree myself shortly after my second daughter was born, I began to notice that the majority of my colleagues were male – an observation that became all too apparent when the subject matter was heavily slanted in the direction of matrix algebra. That fact just didn’t sit well. All of those visions of the toys in the toy store came back. The building sets and science sets all seemed to be aimed at young boys. Maybe we just weren’t doing enough to spark the curiosity of young girls in the sciences and maths at very young ages. In reading further, the differences seemed quite pronounced. Even for girls that did venture into these disciplines, the playing field just wasn’t a level one, as a recent Harvard Business Review article made painfully evident. As a believer in the value of a strong education, this was something that I wanted to do something about, but didn’t know how.
When Darryl approached me about Dad’s for Daughters in STEM, I was naturally all-in. To me, it isn’t about whether my daughters become engineers or computer scientists—it’s simply about exposing them to the subject matter that allows them to make their own choices. To chart their own path with all of the options presented equally. I felt it was important to be a part of promoting this idea for all young girls, not just my own daughters, and to support parents that sought outlets to teach STEM in fun ways. While I might call it equal opportunity curiosity, it really doesn’t matter what you call it, it just seems like the right thing to do.
Author: Andrew Sarta, PhD in Management at Ivey Business School & Executive Director and Chair of Research & Government Outreach for D4DSTEM