The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 30, 2001


How your daughter can win

Dr. Sylvia Rimm knows more than most people about success. She had a book, See Jane Win, on the New York Times bestseller list last year. "I never expected that when I was a little girl who loved to write," said Rimm. She humbly credited her achievement and the publication of her new book How Jane Won to another woman, Oprah Winfrey. When appearing on the television show to discuss See Jane Win, Rimm recalled, "Oprah called my book a 'ground-breaking book.' " Very quickly it became a bestseller as well.

Rimm shared her thoughts with about 200 women last Wednesday, March 21, at an event sponsored by the Concord Bookshop. The audience included about a dozen daughters and a couple of men. The author subtitled her earlier book The Rimm Report on How 1,000 Girls Became Successful Women. She based her scholarly effort on an extensive research study of women assisted by her daughter and daughter-in-law, Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman and Dr. Honna Rimm.

Over 1400 women completed her 23-page questionnaire. The author eliminated surveys from women who considered themselves neutral or unhappy about their work. She categorized the remaining 1,236 questionnaires as "successful" and further classified these subjects into five subgroups for trend analysis: power brokers, healers and discovers, communicators, artists and musicians, and nurturers.

Rimm then interviewed some of the women to better understand the formative process of raising and educating girls. Unfortunately, as the scholar was relatively unknown, some of the women declined the interview or refused to use their real names. In the end, she completed 120 interviews for the book.

Building on success

After publication of See Jane Win in 1999 and her appearance on "Oprah," Rimm became somewhat of a celebrity herself. She subsequently gained access to influential and well-known women. She was empowered to interview such women as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, actress Florence Henderson, Chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma P. Mankiller, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman, space shuttle commander Eileen Collins, and Harry Potter illustrator Mary GrandPré. Her current book was the result, and it contains interviews with 55 well-known, successful women. "How Jane Won is really the book See Jane Win should have been," said Rimm. She spent the next hour summarizing her original research and sharing new anecdotal information. (The sidebar, below left, reviews Rimm's recommendations for parents based on her findings.)

At the end of the talk, Rimm showed herself to be a master of the sound-bite: "Don't tell your daughters how beautiful and thin they are. Do tell them how smart they are." She concluded, "Tell them you can marry the American dream, but you can also live it." It certainly helps if you get Oprah's attention along the way.

Summary of Dr. Rimm's 20 guidelines for raising daughters

· Set high educational expectations.

· Expect daughters to have to cope with some pressure.

· Regard motivation as critical to success as ability.

· Value strong work ethics and accomplishments.

· Support characteristics often gender-stereotyped as female. (Successful women often describe themselves as "sensitive," "kind," "shy," "emotional," "perfectionist" and "self-critical.")

· Consider parochial, all-girls, and independent schools (although 79 percent of the entire sample attended public schools, twice as many successful women attended private ones when compared with children in the overall population).

· Encourage reading skills.

· Promote enjoyment of math to broaden career choice.

· If your daughters are not challenged academically, evaluate the possibility of skipping grades.

· Support extracurricular activities such as music, art, dance, drama, religious groups, sports and scouting (more than half of the successful women participated in Girl Scouts).

· Encourage competitive activities such as music contests, art shows, debates, science fairs, 4-H exhibits, math competitions and creative problem-solving meets.

· Plan family trips and encourage independent travel when daughters are old enough.

· Let daughters know that popularity is not important, and avoid pressuring them to have lots of friends.

· If you used drugs, drank too much or smoked when young, don't glorify your own experimentation. If your daughters experiment, don't condone it.

· Be a coach, not a judge.

· Be sure that your daughters get leadership opportunities and responsibilities regardless of birth order.

· Don't hesitate to fulfill your own life dreams by returning to school or entering a careeryour daughters are watching you.

· Expect setbacks, and don't overprotect your daughters because they are girls.

· Teach your daughters to value the three C's: challenge, contribution and creativity.

· Give your daughters the freedom to balance and sequence their own career/family decisions without encumbering them with your own preferences.

* Based on findings and content from See Jane Win, 1999.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito