canstockphoto19931910How do you ensure the young women in your life get the equal opportunities they deserve?

Gender equity is not just a girl thing. Women have important contributions to make and powerful perspectives to share. Smart leaders know that diversity of thinking fuels growth, and they claim it’s a priority. But the numbers reveal the truth: We still have a long way to go before we can talk about equality with a straight face.

Women in the workplace see this clearly. And so do many men, especially those who love their little girls.

Thank You, Dads

Men with daughters in the workforce understand how much damage can be caused by unconscious biases. Two of these doting dads commented on my LinkedIn Publisher post, “The Glass Ceiling Hasn’t Shattered Just Yet.”

“Men don’t seem to care all that much; it’s not THEIR problem. When men start looking at the issue in terms of their wives, sisters, and daughters, things will change. That not enough men look through the lenses of their women shocks me.”

“Parents pigeon-hole their children into stereotypes and create examples for their children on how they will handle their problems when they become adults. Today my daughter and other girls of her age do everything that boys do. Sports, hobbies, gaming, everything. Twenty years ago women were still being pigeon-holed into roles, and their parents forgot to encourage them to assert themselves. If you haven’t been brought up to assert yourself, it is difficult to assert yourself in a way that people will take you seriously on a daily basis.”

To both of these insightful fathers, I say, “Bravo! Your daughters are lucky to have you and so is the business world.”

Does Gender Really Matter?

I have two daughters, and they had dump trucks, diggers, cargo trucks, and trains, because I didn’t believe girls should only play with dolls. When my grandson was two years old, I gave him a doll. Little boys have a gentle demeanor, and they need to be encouraged to show that side of themselves.

When I was a kid, my dad and I went to ballgames together—just the two of us. We lived in Philadelphia, and I saw the Phillies and the Eagles play. Dad was a great teacher. When I first asked about going to football games, he said I could watch with him for one season, and he would teach me the game. Then, we could go the next season. Those were special times. But I’m absolutely clear about one thing: If I’d had a brother, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity. Gender roles mattered in those days.

It’s different today. My granddaughters are just as interested in sports as my grandsons. In fact, the youngest is playing baseball this year. Why? She had two reasons: She got tired of going to games just to watch her brother play, and she thought it would be fun.

It will be years before she enters the workforce. And I hope by then, she’ll have the same chance as her male colleagues to knock one out of the park.

Let’s Celebrate!

Sunday was International Women’s Day—a time for the world to applaud the progress women have made. (#iwd2015)

Here in the U.S., the entire month of March is “Women’s History Month.” It’s been 95 years since American women gained the right to vote. It seems as if we should have made a lot more progress over the last century, doesn’t it? Well, we didn’t really make much progress at all in the first few decades. My mom graduated with a degree in finance from Syracuse University in 1936—16 years after the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted suffrage for women. But Mom couldn’t get a job at a bank, because they didn’t hire women, even as tellers.

Making progress is tough when governments and businesses are dominated by men. The saving grace? We have men with daughters and sisters—many of whom use their influence to make a better working world for the women they love.

Of course, there have also been a century’s worth of smart, talented women who refused to be second-best, who fought their way to the top and pulled other women up with them. So in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, let’s all take the time to celebrate the power of women—and our amazing dads and brothers! While we’re at it, let’s think about how each of us (man or woman) can encourage and support the young women in our lives, and create a better world for them to work in some day.

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