Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

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How Daughters Have Been Forgotten in “Take Our Children to Work Day”

It’s 9:30am, and I’m on a conference call. My three-year-old son, Leo, is here, wrecking my office and writing all over himself. Meanwhile, I’m trying to pay attention to a meeting, muting the phone any time he makes any noise and trying to ask questions at the right time. I’m longing for my normal routine of sitting at my desk, quiet and immobile, sipping a hot cup of coffee.

Leo’s here because it’s “Take Our Children to Work Day.” The office has been transformed into a makeshift daycare, full of food, crafts, and games. A past employer once went big and had an indoor bouncy castle.

I almost didn’t bring him. I’ve popped him in several times for a quick hello, and he understands that this is where I come all day, but what could a three-year-old possible have to gain from this day? As for me, by 10am, I’m unproductive and even more exhausted than usual, so I decide to take him back to school.

Why would anyone think that bringing all these toddlers to an office — any office — was a good idea? I love the idea of meeting my coworkers’ families/important people/children, which is why we should have a summer BBQ/holiday party/any event where employers welcome guests.

But today is not supposed to be that day.

Today is supposed to be the day that preteen and teenage girls are brought into the workplace to see women doing cool, interesting things — and be inspired to explore potential career paths. This is supposed to be a day for mentoring and inspiring young women — for changing the ratio.

Image by Diana Pun

But is this still the point? According to the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation website, the day’s mission is now “bringing girls and boys together, [so that] we will continue to create a more equitable world — at home, at school, in the workplace, and in the community.” What? Most girls and boys are together every day at school. And this program certainly isn’t creating any kind of equitable world at my office — if anything, that is being achieved at a much more effective level at my son’s progressive preschool.

No, today was supposed to be about career exploration beyond stereotypical female archetypes, beyond gender and class. Today was supposed let a 14-year-old girl see that she might someday be interested in leading a creative department, that she might someday smash a glass ceiling.

Back when this program was started by Gloria Steinem and Marie Wilson in 1993, it had trouble getting off the ground because, without involving sons, it couldn’t get funding, participation, or even respect. In 2003, it had to be rebranded to include boys in order for companies to get involved. It began in order to combat the exact problem that kept it from being successful, then had to turn into something meaningless and male in order for anyone to care about it.

The point of programs like this is to help change the ratio in industries that are dominated by white men. I go to meeting after meeting where everyone wonders why our female pipeline is thin, or there aren’t enough women in leadership, or we simply lack diversity — yet here’s a program that existed purely to start sewing the seeds of change at an early age, and we co-opted it so that it is pointless and not at all helpful for girls’ career paths.

Today isn’t supposed to be social, or an onsite daycare, or for sons. It is supposed to be take your older daughter to work and let her see how you contribute to the world — and be inspired for her own future.