This seemingly innocent question posed by my 12-year-old daughter initially passed over like most other simple questions with my answer being, “of course sweetheart, girls can be anything they want to be!”
It wasn’t until I got home I realised that despite the best attempts of her parents (and step-parents) my daughter had fallen victim to her own gender profiling. It was actually quite upsetting that she thought girls might not be able to do that job.
At 44 years of age I grew up in an Australia that was quite racist, and certainly struggled with equality and equity for women. Since leaving school however I have seen a steady improvement in the way women are treated in almost all ways of life. I do need to acknowledge that there is a long way to go, but it has definitely improved since the 1980’s. In my industry in particular, there is a growing number of women in all levels of the workforce which is a great thing. We should do more to encourage and support up and coming women wanting to get into the industry.
So where to now for how I build an environment for my daughter (and my son) to believe that any vocation is possible and that values like hard-work are not a male-only domain. That being able to realise your dreams should be based on merit and individual skill not the X-Y chromosome!
What I do know is that we must take every interaction with our kids as a one off chance to show them what equality looks like, be it gender, ethnic, religious, or cultural. For me it feels like years now where I have been banging the drum of this very message and for the most part, the people in my life are representative of that message. I certainly know I am not perfect, and do indeed make mistakes, but where friendship, compassion, empathy and selflessness lies is where our heart and soul should dwell.
Yes! Girls can be a builder, if that’s what any girl wants to do then society should support that dream. The failure of that message rests firmly on all of our shoulders…