After seeing how my two daughters inspired my husband to become an outspoken advocate for gender equity, I became curious about the father–daughter relationship. I sensed that this relationship held unique power to build men’s empathy and engage male allies in the fight for women’s rights.
I was excited to discover that many dads of daughters are indeed stepping up as leaders to support girls and women in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Research has found, for example, that male CEOs with daughters have a smaller gender pay gap in their companies than in firms run by other men.
I saw a book in the making! I wanted to write a book that celebrated men who were motivated by their daughters to support gender equity. I wanted to write a book that was a call to action to other dedicated dads to get involved. I wanted to write a book that offered men resources and advice for how to get started.
In my initial excitement, it didn’t cross my mind that writing a book for a largely male audience would pose any particular challenges. I have conversations with men all the time, so how hard could it be?
Wise agents and seasoned editors quickly revealed my naiveté. After sending out my first batch of query letters, I was thrilled to get calls from agents who were drawn to the book’s concept. Yet none were willing to sign the project. They weren’t sure that a woman could write effectively for men. They were skeptical that men would be interested in reading advice from a woman.
Editors were similarly enthusiastic about the concept, but unwilling to jump on board. Their concern was more financial—they simply weren’t convinced that there were enough book-buying men to create a viable market.
Thankfully, I found a fantastic agent who believed in the project and knew that these challenges were surmountable. It turns out, he’s the dad of a daughter. I also found a progressive press with editors who don’t underestimate their male readers. With the support of David Fugate at Launchbooks Literary Agency and the team at Mango Publishers, I’m delighted to report that Dads For Daughters is now a reality.
I am grateful for all of the advice that I received along the way—including from the savvy skeptics who were generous enough to share their thoughts and enable me to approach this project with greater insight. Here are the lessons I learned about writing a book for men.
Start by Talking with Men. I began my research by interviewing dads of daughters with varied backgrounds, jobs, and roles. I was so touched to hear them speak candidly about how having a daughter had changed their view of the world. These conversations were invaluable in helping me understand men’s motivations, fears, and commitment to creating a better world for all of our daughters to thrive.
Share Men’s Stories. While interviewing dads for my research, I discovered than men are eager to hear stories of other men’s experiences. Yet I also discovered that many men are far less eager to share their own stories—particularly about gaining insight on gender equity. So I wrote Dads For Daughters in part to connect men with other men—as a conduit to share their important stories with each other.
Write with Curiosity. In writing Dads For Daughters, I realized that I had the opportunity to learn as much as I had to share. So I approached the book with an open mind, eager to discover what men were thinking about, feeling challenged by, and hoping to accomplish. The book raises as many questions as it answers, which I hope will launch many conversations between men and women about how to best support each other.
Write with Humility. Although the book includes resources and advice for how dads of daughters can get started in supporting gender equity in their everyday lives, I don’t purport to have all the answers. Dads For Daughters acknowledges the work/family demands that men are feeling, and it recognizes that adding women’s advocacy to their “to do” list can be daunting. So the book shares concrete advice from many experts and offers a wide range of realistic options for getting involved in ways both large and small.
Write with Gratitude. Although Dads For Daughters is a call to action, it’s also a celebration of what men can achieve as allies for girls and women. My deepest motivation for writing this book was appreciation for the impact that men can have in leveling the playing field for our next generation of girls.
Write as an Invitation. Most importantly, I wrote Dads For Daughters as an invitation to men to join the conversation about gender equity—a conversation in which they will be problem-solving partners. I wrote the book as an invitation to men to join forces with women and other male allies to learn, grow, share insights, and make progress together.
Michelle Travis is a Law Professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she serves as the Co-Director of USF’s Labor and Employment Law Program. Her research focuses on sex discrimination, gender stereotypes, and work/family integration. Michelle’s book, Dads For Daughters: How Fathers Can Create a Better, Brighter, Fairer Future, was published in January 2020. Michelle is also the author of an award-winning children’s picture book called, My Mom Has Two Jobs, which celebrates working moms.
Author Website: https://michelletravis.net/