A Letter To My Daughter

Yesterday, I met a lady who unabashedly told me that she won’t let her daughter study economics as it was a subject meant to be pursued only by men because it involved mathematics…I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this…As I studied this ‘manly’ subject in college, I thought I’d pen down my thoughts in the form of a letter to my daughter…

Dear Daughter,

As you pursue your education, you may perhaps consider a career in economics like your father…It is a tough subject (I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you that) and you will encounter numerous challenges, but don’t let these challenges faze you…The people around you who seem to find it easy did not always (or will not always) find it so…If they did, chances are they were just skimming the surface, missing some of the puzzles worth puzzling over…

Don’t let anybody tell you that this ‘hard’ subject is only for men because only they have the mental ability to wade through complex issues…Doing economics is something that is learned and not an intrinsic quality in a person (man)…Don’t think or let anybody tell you that you are bad at it before you have immersed yourself passionately in the subject…Only you know if you like it and are good at it…And if you want to learn economics – and want it enough to devote yourself to it – you can…

As you progress in your study of the subject, you will have to be patient and diligent and you will have to refrain from doubting yourself…Many people less clever, passionate and diligent than you have done it, so can you…You cannot learn the subject on your own – assume that you will need help and don’t be embarrassed to get that help…If you can, join a study group where people cooperate and collaborate…Sharing information makes the learning process less lonely, more fruitful, more exciting and frequently even fun…

If people don’t take your ideas seriously because you are a woman (yes, there are many men who don’t take women especially pretty women seriously), don’t worry, they are not worth sharing those ideas with…

If your heart is set on making economics a career, find a way to do so…Pay attention to the advice your mentors and colleagues have to offer…Conversely, don’t pay heed to people who discourage you in your pursuit…The higher you climb up the ladder of success, the more resistance you will face because people will be threatened by you…They will say and do a lot of things that will hurt you – equal opportunity does not always mean equal treatment…

Finally, don’t give up…You can be what you want to be…


Your Mother


22 thoughts on “A Letter To My Daughter

  1. Hey! First time on your blog and found it interesting!

    Lovely post this one! I wud say a lot of women are damn good at maths than a lot of men! But, then again… I do not think it has anything to do with gender!

    Welcome! Correct – maths has nothing to do with gender but try telling that to some archaic people who still populate this Earth…


  2. Hi Sraboney,

    A really lovely post, still lot of us have those prejudices about which gender is expert in which subject.

    Even though I agreed almost on everything in the post, but when you said yes, there are many men who don’t take women especially pretty women seriously, i found it quite disturbing.

    Do only certain men have those assumption? Don’t women also have certain assumptions about women themselves? Then why do we always try to prove the men wrong? I know you said “there are many men” and not all of them, same is true for many women also.

    Mustaf, you are right when you say certain women have those assumptions too but it is usually the men who have them…Frankly, I haven’t met a man who isn’t threatened by a strong woman or who doesn’t look a woman’s appearance first…I speak from experience…


  3. From what I remember, more women studied economics than men…..that lady who made that comment must live on another planet.



    She does live on another planet…You’ll be surprised at the kinds of people who populate the condo I live in…She actually said economics, science and mathematics – since I haven’t studied science or mathematics, I did not include those in the post although I could have written a general one…

    But QI, although many women study economics, only a few go on to make a career in it – I wonder why…It’s like all the girls studying engineering – how many actually find their way onto the factory floor?


    • Bones, I studied Mechanical engg and I even worked on the factory floor – though it was only during vocational training – and would have loved to work in a mech industry but had to change plans because when I graduated, core industries were going through a very low phase.

      Having said that, there are lots of women on the shop floor these days – and it is not as difficult as it is touted to be. I loved it when I was there. I just wish people did not have so many assumptions based on the gender!


  4. She is a lucky girl that she doesn’t have a mother like that woman. Loved your letter to your daughter!!!

    This attitude is common amongst women and men both. I know of boys who studied with us and were more interested in taking Bio, but there was pressure for all girls to take Bio and all boys to take Math! We lost some good doctors and engineers then.
    Imagine if a boy wanted to study English or History!


  5. Why have you allowed yourself to get agitated by what one woman thinks, based on her own experiences? There will similarly be others who believe that some other subjects or professions will not be ok for their daughters.

    My hunch is that by the time your daughter gets to the age where she can decide for herself, she will know exactly what she wants and gender will have nothing to do with her decision.

    Relax! And remember to let her choose then.


  6. Just loved this letter !!!!

    I always tell my girls to follow their dreams, their passion – for whatever subject they have. They shouldnt feel later in their life, that my parents didnt allow me to do it, becos of so and so reasons.

    And you are absolutely right – subjects are not gender specific !!!


  7. To tell the truth, Sraboney, this is the first time i have heard this sort of thing.

    My subject of study was Economics, too, and -maybe it was just a coincidence- but at all levels there were more girls than boys in my class. And the top few students were always girls.

    Have things changed so drastically since I was a student? Seems that we were more ‘liberated’ thirty years ago.:)
    This woman is I think weird…My class had plenty of girls although there were more boys…As I replied to an earlier comment, she said she won’t letter her daughter study eco. maths and science…The point is, a girl should be allowed to follow her dreams whether parents like them or not


  8. Weird, that is. I thought at least when it came to academics, this kind of thought was not there in India.
    Even men are discouraged from studying ‘girly’ subjects like English and History…Some attitudes take a lot of time to change…
    First time on your blog btw, and enjoyed reading.
    I enjoyed reading yours too…


  9. How funny that even subjects like economic are gender specific? I am thinking that maybe, just maybe, that the girls mother wanted to tell her daughter that if it is a male dominated area, then the daughter might face a lot of resistance. Maybe she was just watching out for her. If a male enters a woman dominated area, it generally is not so bad for him as opposed to the opposite.

    I know for a fact that even male nurses suffer ridicule from their friends! Men think it is a job for sissies!

    I am not in anyway supporting it. People should study what they want to. Loved the letter to your daughter! 😀


    • Bhaskar, I will not mingle with her although will have to remain civil…You wouldn’t believe the kind of people I meet here – it’s as if they are stuck in a time warp! I met many such people in the US as well, but the thing is here in Singapore the people who are stuck in a time and culture warp are young – younger than us…They are educated and have money but their outlook is narrow…They don’t like mixing with people from other nationalities, send their kids to Indian schools where they’ll learn Indian values, organize bhajan meets for their 2 yr. old kids, eat only Indian food etc. When I refused to send M for bhajan and Hanuman Chaalisa classes, I had to hear a lot of rude things like how I was not a real Hindu and didn’t care for my heritage etc. …What if I told them that reading reciting Hanuman Chaalisa was not a part of Bengali culture?


  10. Some people have really small minds! Gender has the last thing to do with what one wants to be, in today’s world. I loved Maths and I knew plenty of boys in my class who could wait for tenth to be over and join Arts in plus 2(although some had parents who objected a lot to them not taking up science). When I was growing up, the only thing my parents insisted on was excellence in whatever I did – I was free to choose what I wanted to do.

    And thats what I want for my daughter as well. For her to decide what she wants to do. Loved your letter to your daughter – that’s just what a child needs – supportive parents who support and instill a confidence in them that they can conquer the world!


  11. I studied commerce… and we had two subjects related to Economics…

    I actually say….

    neither Sons nor Daughters should pursue Economics… !!!!!!!

    Seriously !!!!!!!

    what bloody graphs and elasticity curves and indifference curves and what not… !!!!!! It gave me nightmares….

    Ha! Ha! Elasticity curves! I remember those and regression – yikes! My husband does regression analysis on a daily basis – if I were him, I would have regressed into an alien!


  12. I cannot believe anyone said that! Or even thinks on those terms anymore. And there are times, you have more girls to boys ratio in these courses. Just ignore them. Girls are as capable if not more than boys.


  13. The lady you have mentioned must be having a definite problem.
    Days of identifying a particular subject or a profession is over.Women are on the top.
    Best is to ignore the kinds of the lady you mentioned.


  14. Hi there….

    Well it is possible that she or her child may have been poor at economics or mathematics or poor at academics in general.

    That is perfectly alright and she probably excels at something else.

    Maybe her advice was more a sharing of her personal experience than an attempt to associate any subject with a gender. To each their own. It really does not matter.

    Come on…flash that charming smile and move on. I am sure she meant no offence to you.


  15. That lady sure seems to be from another planet. Economics a guy subject? What is a girl’s subject? Home Science?

    Good letter, Bones. You know with mothers like you…we can’t go wrong. Let us bring our daughters up as strong individuals.


  16. “If people don’t take your ideas seriously because you are a woman (yes, there are many men who don’t take women especially pretty women seriously), don’t worry, they are not worth sharing those ideas with…”

    Exactly! there are men who still think women esp. pretty ones are dumb. Well! they have not heard or seen beauty with brain or probably they could never reach up to the woman’s level thus developed a low self esteem.


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