April 27 marks the 24th Annual “Take Your Daughter (now Take Your Daughter and Son) to Work” day. It hardly seems like 23 years ago when I did just that and took my then 6-year-old daughter Emily to spend the last few hours of my work day with me and documented the event right here in this very newspaper — April 28, 1994. That little towheaded girl — who I am sure was bored out of her mind that day — is now a 29-year old woman with a master’s degree in museum studies doing fundraising for a nonprofit in Philly, with a strange colonial love affair with all things George Washington-related, and gifted in the art of hand-quilting (it’s possible she may be the reincarnation of Betsy Ross). Her take-a-way from that first Take Your Daughter to Work outing? I think she found out what she did not want to do.
Founded in 1993 by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation for Women, the original goal of the day was to boost self-esteem and confidence in girls while they were still at a young, impressionable age. The logic was that, in allowing career exploration to start when their minds are still open to all possibilities, we are showing them that with hard work and initiative they can do and be anything they want. The idea quickly gained momentum and today approximately 37 million children and parents, and more than 3.5 million workplaces in over 200 countries around the world participate and plan ahead for this day.
This trip down feminism’s memory lane got me to thinking: How far have women really come since 1993 when the estimable Ms. Steinem and her think-tank came up with the idea for this new addition to our family calendar? I guess I could take us on a trip back to the ’50s when a woman’s place was in the bedroom not the boardroom, but our new administration is already doing a bang-up job of that.
In 1993, almost 46% of the workforce in the U.S. consisted of women, and in good old 2017, that number has barely inched its way to 48.9. Granted, we do now comprise nearly half of today’s workforce, and there are quite a few people still unemployed after the last recession, yet those numbers are a bit disappointing. But wait, I’m sure there’s better news ahead for us, right?
In 1993, when Big Billy Clinton was living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, men earned approximately $9,955 more per year (for the same job, mind you) than women. That means we made 72 cents to each of their dollars. In today’s world, women earn about 79 cents to each of their dollars. I mean, I’m no Marjorie Lee Browne (yes, a famous female mathematician who also happened to be African American), but shouldn’t we be making bigger strides in this area? It’s been 54 years since the U.S. passed the Equal Pay Act, and we still face a very substantial wage gap.
According to AAUW (American Association of University Women) in “The Truth about the Gender Pay Gap,” the wage gap between men and women won’t close until the year 2052! Seriously? My granddaughter Lily will be a 40-year-old doctor/mom/princess by then (according to her long-range plans) and I’ll be … well, probably still doing this. The article states that there is a pay gap in nearly every occupation, and it is worse for women of color, and worse yet for mothers. Yikes.
We have generations of women to point to, and be proud of, who have carved a path in alternative directions so that we and our daughters and granddaughters can see how it is done and that it can be done: Dr. Sally Ride, first American woman in space. Lynn Nottage, 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (her second Pulitzer actually). Virginia Rometty, president/CEO of IBM. The three women Supreme Court justices (Ginsburg, Sotomayor & Kagan). FYI on that: According to a recent study by Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, “male judges interrupt female Supreme Court Justices 3x more often than they interrupt each other.” (Neil Gorsuch should fit right in.) News Anchor, Diane Sawyer. And let us not forget our recently upset presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This year I christen the fourth Thursday in April “Take a Child to Work Day.” Whether it is a son, daughter, niece, nephew, neighbor or grandchild, let the next generation learn from our knowledge as well as our mistakes. Sometimes you achieve those big goals and get the career of your dreams, and sometimes a job is just a job that allows you to pay your bills and keep a roof over your head. Whether you’re answering phones or filling boxes on an assembly line or performing open-heart surgery or teaching music to kindergarteners, there is a place for all of us in this world. And I think it is up to us to help them find that place.
Hopefully, one day in the not too distant future, our children’s children will wonder why a day like “Take Your Son and Daughter to Work” was ever needed because children of any gender orientation will believe they can be anything.