Girls try out a rung on career ladder

April 23, 1993|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Staff Writer

Next week, dozens of Baltimore girls will get a firsthand look at the mysterious workplace -- and those equally mysterious work people -- that their parents and other grown-ups spend so much time discussing.

As part of a public education campaign to call attention to the potential of young women, the Ms. Foundation for Women has proclaimed April 28 as "Take Our Daughters To Work Day."

Intended to introduce girls ages 9 to 15 to career possibilities, the nationwide campaign asks adults to take young women to work for the day. The program responds to recent studies that show girls suffer a greater loss of self-esteem during adolescence than boys.

Campaign organizers -- including author Gloria Steinem and actress Marlo Thomas -- hope that a day of making young women "visible, valued and heard" will help them become excited about their futures.

"A woman can do anything a man can do, maybe even better," according to Kelly Bunn, a high school dropout who will spend April 28 learning about retail at the Body Shop in Harborplace. "I hope that in 20 years the battle of women's rights will just be history."

The Body Shop, one of the national sponsors of the campaign, is "adopting" Ms. Bunn for the day, along with her friends Lakisha Gaskins and Sheryl Cooke. The three teen-agers are participating in Fresh Start, a jobs-training program in Fells Point run by the Living Classrooms Foundation. Living Classrooms is a non-profit organization that provides hands-on education and job training, especially to at-risk youth.

"Many kids in our urban environment don't have role models to look to," said Skip Maner, owner of the Harborplace Body Shop and a volunteer for Fresh Start. "The whole idea behind this day is to get girls out into the workplace to let them see what they can accomplish. We think that just being in the shop doing customer service and working the cash register can give them an idea of a lot of the experiences they would have in retail."

Although local school systems are not officially recognizing the "Take Our Daughters to Work" campaign, schools are free to plan events of their own.

Riderwood Elementary School in Towson, for instance, has invited students' mothers who work in the fields of math and science to speak at the school this morning, accordingto assistant principal Patricia Murphy. Girls in third, fourth and fifth grades will learn about careers in medical illustration, computer education, nursing, physiology, economics and medical technology.

In less than a decade, women will fill two of every three new jobs in the work force, according to the Ms. Foundation. Founded in 1972, the New York foundation gives money to grass-roots organizations that aid women and girls on issues of safety, economic justice and reproductive rights. "Take Our Daughters to Work" was developed from the National Girls' Initiative, a foundation program concerned with the self-esteem of young women.

At least 5,000 organizations across the country are participating in the April 28 campaign, according to the foundation.

Some workplaces have devised elaborate plans. At the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, about 25 young women will accompany their parents, a group that includes accountants, lawyers and payroll clerks. Events include a welcoming speech by Del. Hattie N. Harrison, D-Baltimore, work-site tours, lectures on health and substance abuse, and a luncheon and concert performed by a choir from the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center in Marriottsville.

At the end of the workday, the girls will receive certificates, T-shirts and carnations.

"They will find out how we run our facilities -- and how we handle 46,000 cases of troubled youth a year," said Jacque Lampell, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Juvenile Services.

"Hopefully, they will have enjoyed their experience and considered some of the different professions we do have here."

Ms. Lampell expects the occasion to invigorate the staff.

"Our employees like to have young people come in. Serving them is what we're all here for," she said. "It revitalizes us."


For a free pamphlet on the campaign to call attention to the potential of young women, write Ms. Foundation for Women, 141 Fifth Ave., Suite 6S, New York, N.Y. 10010; or call the foundation at (212) 614-9387.

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