Your Daughters Can Be Anything They Want To Be.

Don’t Let Your Unconscious Bias Tell Them Otherwise.

Deb Knobelman, PhD
4 min readJul 2, 2018


Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

I was talking with my friend’s 16 year old daughter the other day. Lets call her Greta.

She has a remarkable head on her shoulders.

Greta wants to be a doctor. Her family doesn’t have a lot of money, so she was talking to me about ways to pay for college and medical school. The options she had considered so far included: ROTC, college/medical school in Germany (she has dual citizenship), and the best possible school option utilizing our state’s tuition reciprocity program.

She recently completed a summer program at Johns Hopkins. It is one of the top pre-med and medical schools in the country. Her eyes sparkled as she told me about the experience.

She wanted to talk to me because she knew I had done similar things in my past. I received a PhD from an Ivy League medical school. She wanted to talk through the pros and cons of different paths with me.

In my mind, it was a straightforward conversation. She had a clear goal. She needed a sounding board for the best steps she could take to achieve that goal.

Her mother, my friend, was an active participant in the conversation. But she kept putting limitations on Greta. When Greta mentioned ROTC, she remarked how she wouldn’t want her daughter to have to go off to war. When Greta mentioned going to Germany, her mom worried that she would not be able to find a lucrative position upon return to the US.

But she had one main concern, and she mentioned over and over. She objected to Greta’s current passion — trauma surgery. Her concern was that trauma surgery would be limiting if she ever wanted to have a family someday.

As a reminder, Greta is 16.

I try not to insert myself into other people’s parenting. Truly, I do. There are so many variations on being a good parent in this world. No one needs my 2 cents.

But in situations like these, I have to intercede.

Why would a parent tell a daughter that a goal is unobtainable? At 16 years old, I can’t imagine why a parent would direct their daughter to a “lesser” goal. Especially when the…