The theme of 2024 International Women’s Day (IWD) is ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress’ – in other words, giving women opportunities to build their capabilities, and strengthening their capacity to learn, earn and lead.

At UPco, we’re celebrating IWD well beyond the day itself, as we explore what the theme means to us. In this piece, we chatted with UPco Director, Marc Ellenbroek, about another important role he plays outside work: the father to a determined young daughter. Marc shares some of his thoughts on the challenges that parents face when raising girls, and how we can best equip them for the brightest possible future.

Is gender equity something you’ve been conscious of since having a daughter?

Definitely – in fact, I’d say that becoming a parent almost instantly changed how I see a whole range of things. I’m sure all parents would say the same. Things that aren’t necessarily front of mind before having kids suddenly come into sharper focus, especially issues that could affect your children in any negative way.

And I think it’s a natural part of parenthood to consider what the future might look like for your children – and what you hope it will look like. As part of that process, I have become more acutely aware of the challenges faced uniquely by women.

What has been the most surprising aspect of raising a daughter in this time & place?

There have been many surprises along the way – mostly good, but some a little eye-opening. One thing I have noticed is that there’s quite a broadly accepted view that boys are praised as being better than girls at certain activities, whether it’s true or not (typically sport and other physical activities). But when it comes to things that girls are typically seen to excel at, they’re rarely praised or acknowledged to the same extent.

I’m thankful that this type of bias doesn’t deter my daughter from participating in and enjoying the things she likes to do, such as soccer, which she loves. And on the upside, there are more and more moments when women are being properly celebrated for their success. The World Cup in Australia last year was an incredibly powerful and important moment in time, particularly for girls with an interest in sport, but for all of us. The wave of interest and engagement in women’s sport during that few weeks, across the board, was quite incredible and certainly filled our household with a sense of inspiration and pride.

I’m certain there’ll be plenty more surprises and challenges ahead as my daughter grows up, but I’m optimistic that she’ll have every opportunity to achieve whatever she sets her mind to.

How are you equipping your daughter to navigate the world as a woman, knowing that she may encounter inequality or bias?

My wife is an incredible, strong female role model for our daughter, and she has without doubt been an educator for me on gender equity. So, I really play a supporting role in trying to arm our daughter with the knowledge and skills to navigate the world as a woman – as best I can from a man’s perspective.

When it comes to gender bias, I do think that being honest is really important. We can’t pretend that inequity no longer exists or isn’t a problem that she might encounter. So, we’re open in our conversations with her, and if any of us come across examples of inequity or bias, we’ll often talk about how and why it’s not ok.

We also try our best to instil in her a sense of fairness, independence and confidence, which we hope will equip her with the strength to stand up for herself and others – qualities that I believe are important in every person, and fundamental to creating the type of world we want to live in.

Stay tuned for more articles in our Count Her In series, which takes on topics including managing burnout, saying ‘yes’ to side projects and workplace flexibility as an investment for all women (not just parents!).