First, congrats on your three girls. It sounds like you’re already doing an incredible job of raising them and supporting their interests. Bringing them to conferences has to help, because they’re exposed to the industry and I’ve always loved the quote:
You can’t be what you can’t see.
You’re giving them an opportunity to see not only their Dad at a conference, but everyone else in attendance and speaking, which includes women.
What can you do? Support conferences who’ve gone the extra mile of putting qualified women on stage, not to fill a quota, but because they genuinely cared enough to make it a supportive environment for women. MozCon is one of those conferences — they’ve done so much to intentionally diversify and also created and enforced a code of conduct. Many conferences are now adopting this and it’s important in helping women feel safe enough to attend or speak. When more women speak and feel safe, more women show up! It’s very simple and yet so many conferences still haven’t gotten the memo.
As for my Dad, that’s an interesting question. He was very supportive of me becoming anything I wanted to be and he raised me like a son in many ways, so I rarely questioned whether I should/could do anything because of my gender. I knew my own physical limitations, but from an early age my father nurtured a strong sense of leadership, stubborn independence, and duty to others in me. He gave me the tools I needed to fight and be resilient in the face of adversity. The only thing I lost in time was his love, which has certainly had a significant impact on me over the last few years. I know he still loves me deeply, but we stopped speaking and have had a strained relationship for a few years. It’s painful. He was the person who was always there when I needed a pep talk or I was wallowing in my own self-pity for too long. Like a drill sergeant, he’d always give me the loving kick in the butt I needed. So, I’d say — be there. Always love your children and be present for them. Show them they’re capable of anything and when they fall or do find their limits, catch them emotionally.
As for wishing someone would do something — you have to be aware of the problem to do something about it. No one was there when I was sexually assaulted by a stranger in my dorm room while sleeping at night, no one was there for the date rape my sophomore year, no one was sitting beside us when the man twice my age hinted at an affair, no one noticed when I was grabbed at a party, and no one heard when “famous” industry speakers said any number of grotesque comments because they were high on their ego and new money.
It’s unfortunate, but this behavior rarely occurs in front of others. When certain comments are made online it’s easier to jump into the mix and point out cruel behavior, but even comments are often made quietly through speaker feedback forms or direct replies. There have been a handful of moments when men and women came to my side or I stood by theirs. Those moments I cherish, because I saw the best of humanity and what I think the majority of us believe in. So, do that — be good. Be visible doing good work for others. Help those in need. Listen and observe. Don’t shy away from an uncomfortable situation, because you don’t think it’s your place to say something. Be brave and just. There are a handful of men in our industry that I would trust with my life, because they’ve already proved it. Be one of those! You already are a hero to your girls. :)