24 April 2014

Take Our Daughters to Work Day -- 21 years later

Take Our Daughters to Work Day: The Trojan Horse
by Marie Wilson, Ms. Foundation for Women honorary founding mother and president emerita

Today (Thursday, April 24, 2014), we will again celebrate Take Our Daughters to Work Day; the program that The Ms. Foundation for Women launched in April of 1993.

Based on research by Carol Gilligan and her colleagues at Harvard, Take Our Daughters to Work Day’s publicly stated goal was strengthening the honest voices of pre-adolescent girls by linking them to adults who cared about girls' lives, and introducing them to the workplaces they would eventually enter.

It did its job and changed the lives of millions of girls across the US and the world. But for the foundation, it was also a Trojan Horse.

Since the research showed that pre-adolescent girls resisted losing their truth-telling authentic voices, we knew our young female visitors would remind adult women of the voices of fairness and justice that they themselves once used, but subsequently silenced.

And our daughters did not disappoint!

In the workplaces, girls asked probing questions about women, men and work:  why are you investing in tobacco when you don’t want me to smoke?” “Why aren’t there more women in the newsroom?”  “Your job is boring…didn’t you ever want to do anything else?”

The first year, we toyed with a press conference to reveal our broader vision. At the close of the day we would have some of our adult hosts speak about what these “outsider” observations taught them. But we chickened out.

Eventually, however, we heard stories from workplaces where girls’ viewpoints altered ad campaigns, policies and even provoked evaluations of long held practices.

Plus there were the moving stories of girls who looked at their parent’s work through a different lens, and took pride in working class jobs that the world does not always honor. As a daughter of the working class, it moved me when girls wrote us about seeing how valuable the work of a parent was; especially when the job was one often undervalued by society.

Anywhere I travel, young women come up to tell me how this day changed their lives. I’m glad to report that many of them are working on ways that they can play it forward.

The justice seeking voices of girls will enter the workplaces again this week. But once more, their voices will not just be directed at the workplace; they will often challenge the unfairness that our country is struggling with today.

This is the work that we all need to be taken to. My hope is that our daughter’s voices and their justice-seeking questions will strengthen our resolve to be a fairer society; one that works for all our nation’s children.

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