Research shows that girls start to doubt their gender’s intelligence when they’re as young as 6 years old. As the father of a daughter, it’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen. One such way? Teach them about strong female role models.
That’s something former United States Treasurer Rosa “Rosie” Rios can’t stress enough. One of 9 children raised by a single mother, Rios rose to become the 43rd Treasurer of the United States under the Obama administration. During her time in that position, she pushed for female representation on money and spearheaded a new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman.
If your elementary schooler is already tapped into YouTube Kids, you should know Rios curate a playlist highlighting stories of historic female figures, both well-known and underappreciated in honor Women’s History Month. It’s called “Super Women Of Our Past,” and it celebrates everyone from African-American journalist and suffragist Ida Wells to astronaut Sally Ride.
“If girls are questioning their intellectual ability as young as 6 years old, we need to provide those inspirations for them to dream big,” she says. “You need inspirations to have aspirations.”
Here’s Rios’ advice for raising strong, confident daughters.
Take Doubt Out Of The Equation
Doubt is a wicked thing — one that can quickly ruin a child’s sense of self. Rios believes girls only doubt themselves when someone tells them they should have doubt. Because you won’t be able to hunt down each one of those jerks, you’ll need to emphasize your daughter’s potential so she doesn’t succumb to fake limitations. Rios’s own journey illustrates the importance of positive parental enforcement. “I’m one of 9 kids raised by a single mother,” Rios says. “My mom always, always emphasized for all of us is education and doing well in school. I never felt like there wasn’t anything that wasn’t possible for me.” Even the smallest encouragement leads to great things.
Up Their Awareness Of Strong Women
Why did Rios push so hard to feature Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill? Because she believes displaying women on money sends a positive signal to young girls about what they can achieve. Rios has already seen the effect ripple out into the world. Her high school teacher caught her on the news talking about the Harriet Tubman $20. “On the first day of the school year and he walked into the classroom and realized that there were no images of women on his wall,” Rios said. “He changed that.”
When Rios was deciding on a historic woman to feature on currency in 2015, she found those who shaped American history were under-told, and was compelled to share those stories. “I wanted it to be about the hundreds of women who may have been overlooked in our history,” Rios says. “Of the almost 250 historic American women that we identified, I would say there was probably a good half of them that were news to a lot of people.”
Show Them That There’s More Than One Type of Heroine
All too often, women’s history focuses on familiar figures. No disrespect Susan B. Anthony, but there are a lot of ladies not getting their due. By creating the YouTube playlist, Rios strove for a mix of women in different fields and historical eras. “It’s not just about first ladies,” Rios said. “It is about women of accomplishments. Whether they were writers, whether they were activists, whether they were suffrage activists.”
One historical figure Rios found particularly resonated with girls was Admiral Grace Hopper, whose work was instrumental in the development of the computer programming language COBOL (she alsoperformed history’s most literal hardware debugging when she pulled a moth from a naval computer). “She’s a really, really good example of someone who overcame a lot of different challenges and really, really shined,” Rios says.
Show Them How To Never Back Down
The status of the Harriet Tubman $20 is murky at this moment. While an agreement to print the bill was reached in 2016 under the Obama administration, President Trump has expressed reluctance about replacing Andrew Jackson, a president he admires. Nonetheless, Rios is optimistic about the note’s future in this historic moment for American women. “We’re counting up to the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in 2020,” Rios says. “In 3 and a half years, it’s now just catching up in terms of what our history actually means for us. More than anything, this isn’t just about what’s right. It’s something more than that.” Such perseverance proves to little girls that anything is possible.