The attitude and expectations of the men in my life have shaped me. From a young age, I was expected to play sport, to be adventurous, to be successful at school and in my career by my dad.
I don’t think I’m alone. I’ve noticed that among my peers, most of the women who are confident and uninhibited in the careers and choices they make are the ones with strong male role models or ones who have fathers with high expectations of them.
I have a brother who is two years senior to me and there was never any difference in how we were treated in this respect. I am 37 next month and my dad has never asked me when will I get married, have babies or do any of the things typically expected of women of a certain age.
I’ve also had a male boss who treated me respectfully and as an equal. My ability to do my job was all that mattered to him. In meetings, he would ask for my opinion and advice and say “you’re the expert, you tell me”. I stayed at the organisation largely because I knew I could learn a lot from him.
Conversely, my shakiest moment – both in my career and in my personal life – was at the hands of (another) sexist male boss. I felt he treated the men and the women in the team differently and afforded the men greater opportunities. I lost confidence and felt my abilities were being undermined. I started to think I wasn’t capable of even doing my job, let alone climb higher on my career ladder.
Like most men, I doubt any of them realise the impact they have had on my life as a young (now, not so young) woman. While we know that women need good female role models, I think we also need to make sure men understand the way they behave towards the women in their lives can mould them – and pay homage to the ones who get it right.
My dad grew up on a council estate in Redcar. He had a rough and traditional upbringing – his mum stayed at home and his dad went to the pub. However, he was of the Bowie era which saw the merging of gender and the rise of feminism and this must have had a positive influence on his outlook.
In the late 80s, when most young girls were given dolls to play with, I was gifted an electronics set for my tenth birthday. I doubt he’d call himself a feminist but the way I’ve been brought up is to believe that my gender does not shackle me.
My dad encouraged and instilled in me a sense of self-belief which means I feel I can do whatever I choose. After spending more than two years procrastinating about whether to set up my own business, it was my dad last summer who said to me “I don’t know why you haven’t done it yet”. And so I did.
So, I say let’s thank the men who positively influence our lives and hold a mirror up to those who don’t.