Lessons they learned. Participants reflect as Ms. Foundation sponsors its final Take Our Daughters to Work Day
Ilana DeBare, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Eleven-year-old Jasmine Victoria dreamed of growing up to be a reporter when, in 1993, the first Take Our Daughters to Work Day gave her the chance to shadow a television anchorwoman for the day.
Victoria, now 25, dropped those dreams of reporting awhile ago. Today she describes herself as an entrepreneur and is about to open a seafood restaurant in New York City. But she still carries a piece of Take Our Daughters to Work Day within her.
"It's not typical of the women in my family to go off and start their own business," she said. "For me to go off, quit my job and step outside of the box comes from the things I learned through Take Our Daughters to Work Day."
Today marks the 15th year that American companies have been exhorted to open their doors to employees' daughters, and later their sons.
It is also the last year that the day will be sponsored by the Ms. Foundation for Women, which created the event and saw it take off like wildfire.
Even as more than a million workplaces will host young visitors today, Ms. Foundation officials say it's time for their group to take up other issues.
"We've gone as far as we could trying to influence this particular discussion in this particular way," said foundation President Sara Gould.
Much has changed since that first headline-making Daughters Day in 1993.
Millions of participants like Victoria grew up. Girls surged ahead of boys in some areas such as college enrollment. Meanwhile, the day morphed from a feminist-inspired event focused on girls into more of a "career day" for both boys and girls.
Other things have not changed.
Women still face glass ceilings in many industries. Many companies still don't pay more than lip service to being "family friendly." Husbands and wives still fumble and fight over dividing up work and home responsibilities.
What kind of impact has Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day had?
The answer varies from child to child -- or, among veterans of the day, from young adult to young adult.
Daughters Day got its start in the early 1990s, as a response to research showing that many girls faced a sharp drop in self-esteem, assertiveness, and math and science achievement in early adolescence.
"The goals were to make girls visible, valued and heard in American society," said Gould. "Bringing them into work was a way to encourage young girls to take part in public life and to dream high."
A brief mention of the day in Parade magazine brought a deluge of calls from companies wanting to take part. "We really hit a nerve," Gould said.
'Plethora of possibilities'
Like Victoria, Tracey Delaney took part in that first Daughters Day in 1993. Delaney, then 16, visited her father's office at the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. She toured a range of departments including graphics, accounting, word processing and global operations.
Today she works as a human resources trainer for American Express in London.
"The day showed me that there are a plethora of career possibilities in every company," Delaney wrote in an e-mail. "Even a company which is predominantly perceived as tax and audit had a range of consulting services -- even graphic designers!
"It showed me that I had choices," Delaney added. "I could be successful and a leader in business and also be a woman and have a family."
From the start of Daughters Day, critics accused the Ms. Foundation of unfairly excluding boys. And some companies opted to open their doors to both sons and daughters.
In 1995, Sandra and Louise Kozma took part in a coed Take Our Children to Work Day at Chevron in Richmond, where their father worked as a glass blower creating vessels for company labs.
Today Sandra Kozma, 25, runs her own graphic design business in El Cerrito. Louise Kozma, 23, works as an administrator at her alma mater, California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo.
Both girls remember the thrill of receiving a kids' version of a company name badge. They felt pride as other children watched their father at his craft. But neither felt that the day had a significant impact on their own lives or aspirations.
"It definitely was a lot of fun, but I wouldn't say it was life changing," said Louise.
"What I did get was an understanding of how corporations are run and what happens inside the walls of a huge refinery," said Sandra. "It was an opportunity to see the softer side, to see there are people working inside the refinery."
In 2003, 10 years after the program's start, the Ms. Foundation endorsed the inclusion of boys and changed the name of its program to Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Foundation officials denied that they were caving in to the critics. Instead, they were trying to address a new issue -- helping both young men and young women integrate family needs with their work lives.
"We wanted to foster a conversation between young people and adults about how you take part in work life and family life," Gould said. "This was about men and women working alongside each other for change. It requires women moving into more aspects of public life, and men moving into more aspects of family and community life."
Some observers felt the addition of boys muddied the message of the day.
Exposing them to options
And the foundation's attempt to reframe the day around work/family balance didn't get picked up by most companies.
Instead, they saw Daughters and Sons Day in a less complicated way -- as a chance to expose children to career options and show them what their parents did all day.
Melvin Miller attended Daughters and Sons Day twice at Wells Fargo in San Francisco, where his mother worked. Today, at 20, he works at Wells Fargo as a teller, although his long-term goal is to become a firefighter.
Miller's memories don't include any deep discussions of work and family. He does remember meeting other kids, telling jokes and getting a tour that included a genuine stagecoach, receiving real gold pieces and going inside a bank vault.
"For me, it was pretty cool because I liked history," Miller said. "It got me interested to see how the company evolved and did other things than regular deposits and withdrawals. It gave me a broader view of Wells Fargo than 'just a bank.'
"But the best thing I remember," he added, "was that we'd have pizza."
This year, Wells Fargo expects more than 100 children to take part in a tour similar to the ones Miller went on a decade ago. Stanford University will have 325 kids at its program, which includes opportunities to try out virtual surgery tools, take part in a mock trial or spend a day with a campus police officer.
As in past years, many smaller companies are also hosting children. Organic, a 100-person interactive advertising firm in San Francisco, will have about 18 kids take part in a scavenger hunt designed to show them how to build a marketing campaign.
Next year, the prospects for the day are less clear.
Ms. Foundation officials want to put their energy into other projects, such as lobbying for a national paid sick-leave program -- similar to San Francisco's new law -- that can be used by working parents. So they are turning Daughters and Sons Day over to a small human resource consulting firm that has helped organize it in the past.
Foundation officials say that after 15 years, the day has enough momentum to continue on its own. "It lives now in HR departments," Gould said. "It doesn't matter if anyone declares the day. It declares itself."
What happens now?
Some observers are skeptical. They fear the day will peter out -- to everyone's loss.
"We live in a society where work was historically segmented from family, and that meant kids often grew up not having a clue what their parents did at work," said Robert Drago, a professor of labor and women's studies at Pennsylvania State University.
"By sharing their work lives with their children, parents took some of the mystery out of what they do all day," Drago said. "Many developed ways of talking about work at home from the experience. ... I always viewed (the day) as parents building their relationships with their children, and that's a wonderful achievement."
E-mail Ilana DeBare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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04-26-2007, 01:41 PM #1
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Take Our Daughters to Work DayIf you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)
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Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!
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04-26-2007, 01:54 PM #2
Heck, read these forums. There are even some firefighters bringing their young daughters to work on the fire line with them."This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?
04-26-2007, 02:02 PM #3
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My words stated here do not necessarily point towards organizations which I am affiliated with.
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