Empowering Dads to empower their girls
1 March 2020
Office of Sport NSW Collective Voices Game Changer Story: Empowering Dads to empower their girls:
When internationally renowned men’s health expert, Prof Phil Morgan, had his third daughter he was struck by comments people made, ranging from: “You’re going to have to lock your daughters up!” to: “Good luck at the ballet!” and: “Bad luck for not having a son.”
As the comments sunk in, he wondered why people felt having a daughter meant less opportunities than having a son. Especially when it came to sport. As an academic, he started looking at the research which showed girls are dropping out of sport at a rate six times greater than boys. He found, quite alarmingly, that by the time NSW girls leave primary school, they are well behind boys in the acquisition of key fundamental movement skills.
The drivers of this disparity, he found, are that girls get less encouragement and opportunities than boys, compounded with self-esteem and body image issues. Fathers are also less likely to be involved with their daughters in co-physical activity than their sons and hard to engage in parenting programs.
“Girls are constantly bombarded with pervasive cultural messages that value them more for how they look than who they are,” he says. “So how can we help fathers removethe gender straight jacket that rewards girls for their looks and passivity, and focus on their physical confidence and their competence and their passions and insights?”.
It was these questions and insights that drove Phil to create the award-winning Daughters and Dads program. It’s the world’s first program targeting fathers and daughters with the aim of educating and empowering them to improve girls’ physical activity, sports proficiency and social emotional wellbeing.
Such is the success of this program that the NSW Government under the Her Sport Her Way strategy is partnering with the University of Newcastle to scale it up across the state through the Office of Sport.