Tomorrow, the fourth Thursday of April, marks the 15th anniversary of Take Our Daughters to Work Day. This national program was conceived by the Ms. Foundation for Women as a way of empowering girls, of making them aware that they can do anything they choose to do in the workforce. Five years ago, the focus shifted and it became Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day.
Some three million workplaces now take part in the program, says Sara Gould, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, and each one celebrates it in its own unique way.
Here at McGraw-Hill, which owns BusinessWeek, the 8- to 12-year-old participants will hear about pursuing a writing career from the author of a popular series of books called The Cheetah Girls. They'll also learn how to express creative ideas through movement from a renowned dance theater group .
Each year Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day rolls around, we notice lots of kids liberated from school for the day, on the trains and buses with mom or dad, or scurrying through office halls.
But have you noticed in recent years that just about any day can be Take Your Daughters & Sons to Work Day?
In other words, many offices have become very tolerant about allowing children to hang out on days when school is closed. For some parents, it's become an informal backup childcare system. For most, it's simply a way to steal some time with their kids during regular working hours.
I asked Sara Gould whether she thought this increased tolerance toward underage visitors could be a side effect of Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day. She conceded that it might, though she also noted that not every workplace can be so accommodating: "Factories and fast-food places, professions such as police officer and firefighter are not condusive to having children around," she said.
I also asked her to help me develop some guidelines for parents who choose to take a child to work. We agreed that the child should be old enough to be self-sufficient and understand that he or she can not disturb the people who are working. Before you leave home, have the child pack a bag with books, homework, and other activities to keep busy. Also try to find some little jobs for them to do in the office. It will keep them occupied and make them feel important and grown-up.
Sara had some other thoughts as well:
"If people have a childcare problem, I would encourage them to talk to a Human Resources person and raise this as an issue they face. The employer might want to take a look at possible solutions."
"Before you bring your child, it's really important to talk with your supervisor about whether it’s okay or not."
"Of course, talk to your children. Help them understand what will be available to them—what they need to bring with them so they won’t get bored, what the rules are, how people act, how you expect them to behave when they’re at work with you."
Bring your well-behaved daughters and sons to work with you and you're sure to get smiles instead of complaints.