Fathers, Daughters, and Careers

I suppose this would be the perfect time to write a “year in review” post but, instead, I’m going to elaborate on my thoughts about Kathy Caprino’s post “7 Ways Your Father Affected Your Career.”

I read Kathy’s post back on December 23, when it was published by Forbes, Inc. I made a hasty comment at the time but knew I wanted to come back to it. The post had seven points. I’ve included each one here (in bold) along with a concise paraphrase (unbolded) and my thoughts (in italics).

1. Who You Associate With ( “girls with uninvolved dads tend to go through puberty at least five months earlier than other girls“) For my experience, this doesn’t correlate. My dad was overseas a good bit due to being in the Navy, but he wasn’t uninvolved. The fact that I went through puberty very early probably is purely biological. The people I associated with could hardly be deemed “rebellious, acting older than they were” or anything else destructive. This one didn’t seem to mirror my experience.

2. Speaking Your Opinion (“when a father encouraged his daughter to express her opinions growing up, she would generally become more confident at expressing her opinions in school and throughout her life”) I wouldn’t necessarily attribute issues I have as an adult expressing my opinion solely to my father. At 49, it doesn’t really matter (ultimately) why I have had challenges with this and hopefully a round of therapy in my early 20s helped me make peace with my childhood influences. On the other hand, I have been compulsively telling people that my “Word of the Year” for 2014 is “freedom” as in “freedom from being so #*$&#)*@# deferential to everyone.” It’s easier for me to write my opinion than to say it. I can’t blame my dad for that. I can work on improving.

3. The Career You Choose My dad was in the Navy; my mom was a housewife who spoke nostalgically of her working days. I don’t think my dad’s choices directly influenced mine. I sure did want to be Mary Tyler Moore tossing that hat in the intersection, though. When I didn’t want to be a stay at home mom. I think I am destined to discover that career choices can change and evolve even as you approach 50.

4. Your Ambition and Competitiveness (“are fathers at least partially responsible as key influencers re: women’s ambition and competitiveness”?) Hmmmm……I think about this a lot and have never given voice to it in my blog (or, really, much of anywhere!). I am ambitious and competitive BUT my concern is that as an only child who got a LOT of praise for pretty much anything, I have an overinflated sense of my “specialness.” I’m not saying this to be amusing …. I like nothing more than a good competition and earning rewards fair and square. Having entered kindergarten at 4 and always been told “aw so smart for so young” it became easy to crave being the exception rather than the “hard worker.”

5. How You Interact With Men (“Without an involved father, the challenge of interacting with men, particularly in the workplace, can be challenging at best (and debilitating at worst) for some women.”) Cue ominous portentious music here. This doesn’t have to do so much with my father’s involvement or lack thereof. Maybe more of the only child thing or maybe just because I am wired the way I am. I’ll never be “one of the boys” but that’s exactly what I craved sometimes (when I didn’t want to be the treasured princess (hey no one said this had to make sense!). I do love love love having men for friends. But that’s different than being able to shoot the sh*t around the water cooler (thereby gaining an “in” into office hierarchies). On the other hand, for the past 19 years I’ve worked in an office that is about 90% female so maybe I am in an unusual environment to start with.

6. How You Are Mentored By Men (nurturing by a dad of a daughter (vs a son) is much easier because of the lack of testosterone) This one I struggle with — but to be fair I have struggled with very authoritative women too. I also can’t name many true mentors, especially male mentors, in my professional history. Maybe this is a gap I need to fill.

7. Your Leadership Style (“How your father interacted, particularly with you, and also with your mother and other authority figures in your family life set an example for how leadership works or doesn’t.”) This one is a tougher nut to crack. Did my parents influence my leadership style? Was I always meant to be the way I am regardless? If anything, a southern childhood of “be polite” messages probably didn’t help in any way but again I am captain of my own destiny, right?

Having worked through all of the questions, in a way I think my original response to Kathy, hastily tapped out, still encapsulates the core of my response:

It is thought provoking; I don’t think I am going to be able to dash a quick comment off in the comment box on your blog! You can never change the pros and cons of your parents’ styles (in this case, father …) as I’m sure my own children will prove on their own therapists’ couches someday. If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing retrospectively, though, I think I would wish for a bit more messaging along the lines of “sometimes you have to push back, often you can do that diplomatically but there are some times that won’t be possible. Have courage in those times and don’t back down.”

"Dad"

“Dad”

What are your thoughts on the topic? Share them here or directly on Kathy’s blog.