I stumbled on this question on Quora: How should I raise a 12-year-old girl to be a successful entrepreneur? I have four grown-up daughters. Some of them are “successful entrepreneurs,” all of them have tried, some are still trying. So I care a lot about this subject.
There are good answers already posted. The answer I like best, happily, is the one with the most votes. It’s also posted by a friend, David Rose, founder of gust.com and head of a New York angel investor group. His highlight is:
By FAR the best thing you can do is be a great role model! Show your sister that girls CAN be entrepreneurs! That being an entrepreneur is cool! That entrepreneurs live larger lives, have a greater impact on society and basically have more fun, than anyone else on the planet! Tell her stories of Mary Kay Ash and Anita Roddick, of Esther Dyson and Heidi Roizen, of Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey…and of yourself!
Although I completely agree with that, I really want to add more. This seems important to me, from my experience:
- Do everything you can, as a parent, to promote and encourage academic education in whatever your daughter likes. For every successful entrepreneur who dropped out of college there are thousands more, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands, who didn’t drop out. Life and entrepreneurship are easier with a college degree.
- Fight the stereotype: Don’t let your daughter swallow the stupid and obsolete idea that boys do math and science and technology and girls don’t. That unfortunately is a self-perpetuating myth. It’s dangerous.
- Don’t, however — please — be that parent pushing the poor kid towards specific educational directions. Drop that agenda fast. The more you push for a specific path (business, entrepreneurship, high tech, for example) the less likely you are to really help your daughter. It’s her life, not yours. For the record, I know many more successful entrepreneurs with degrees in liberal arts than with degrees in business or entrepreneurship or computer science.
- Give her as much technology as she wants. That means — within reason of course — the computer, the laptop, broadband, smart phone, etc. And of course you have to be careful, as a parent, because there are those well-known dangers. My daughters grew up with computers. I gave them domain names as birthday gifts when they were as young as 10 years old. All of them had laptops for school. One of them liked computer games, so I got her all the games she wanted.
- Don’t push your definition of success on her. Help her find her success. It’s her life, not yours.
I have to add something related to point #5 here, and the qualifier “successful” entrepreneur. That’s a dangerous concept. What we want, as parents, is for them to end up happy, which usually means productive, economically self sufficient, and independent. Is it dangerous that we’re in the context of “successful” entrepreneur instead of entrepreneur? And is a successful entrepreneur happier than than an unsuccessful one, or a professional, or middle manager? Especially where your daughter is involved, always pause to question your assumptions.
I think I’ll go add this to the question on Quora, but I wanted to put it here first.