Have you noticed more kids than usual at your workplace today? That is probably because today is “Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” The annual event has been sponsored by the Ms. Foundation since 1993; however, this year, there’s a bit of a new twist. While the event was formerly known as “Take our Daughters to Work Day,” this year, the name has been changed to reflect the participation of both girls and boys in the event.
However, the change is more significant than just formally adding and welcoming the participation of boys in the annual workplace event. As the title of their article “It’s About More Than Just Adding Boys to a Girls’ Day” suggests, the name change also reflects a shift in the day’s focus, according to the event organizers. While the “Daughters” day was focused on showing girls the roles they’ll face at home, on the job, and in their communities and presenting the wide variety of career options now open to women, this year’s event is designed to “expand future opportunities for all our children, in both their work and family lives.” (See About the Program.) The goal is that participating girls and boys will share their expectations about work and family to plant seeds that could improve work and family life. (See Boston Globe editorial.)
As acknowledged by the Globe, “two full-time jobs plus household work often equal more than two working parents can do. Sons and daughters who see this now could be a force for family-friendly change as they enter the workplace. Large and small steps can be taken. New fathers might come to feel that they could take paternity leave without the fear of becoming the butt of water-cooler jokes. More parents might take their children to work without notice or fanfare if they had on-site day care. Flexible schedules and job-sharing might become so familiar that they no longer merit news coverage.” The organizers hope that children visiting the workplace will interact with adults working there in a way that will promote change: “We’ve found that companies seem able to hear from children what they sometimes can’t hear from adults. When daughters and sons ask, ‘Why are there mostly men bosses?’ or ‘Can you have a family and work here, too?’ companies will often ask themselves the same questions and even more change can take root.”
The day has historically been subjected to some criticism, however. Some educators claim that taking children out of school is disruptive, conflicts with preparation for required standardized testing, and costs schools aid that is awarded based on attendance. (See Tucson Citizen and Arizona Republic articles.) One commentator more than a little cynically suggests that if we really want to see family-friendly change in the workplace, there should be “Take Care of Your Kid for a Week” where primarily male CEOs try to balance kids and work for a week. “Surely after a week, these CEOs will have a little more insight about why there is no diversity in their senior management teams. And maybe, after a few years, CEOs will start making it possible for women to raise kids and stay on the fast track.” (See The Brazen Careerist.) And many are happy that the Ms. Foundation has officially embraced what has been happening for years at many workplaces: a coed day where both boys and girls can learn from their visit to the workplace. (See Mercury News article.)
Those who do participate, both boys and girls, will hopefully have a better understanding of what career opportunities are available to them, what the working world is like, and how they will one day juggle work and family responsibilities. Like the event organizers, we too hope it will be easier for the next generation to balance work and family life than it is for many adult workers today. Even if you and your children did not formally participate in today’s activities, it’s always a good time to discuss with your children and other children some of the challenges faced in today’s world, and how they can grow up to make a difference.