For countless girls, on-the-job training

April 29, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer Jean Marbella, Sandra Crockett, Linell Smith and Stephanie Shapiro contributed to this article.

A woman's work may never be done, but more than 500,000 girls started chipping away at it by getting a preview of the work force that they will join someday. And if yesterday's take-your-daughter-to-work day is any indication, they will be in charge of everything from space shuttles to bakeries, emergency rooms to Cabinet posts, firetrucks to courtrooms.

The day was organized by the Ms. Foundation to spark in young girls a sense of the vast possibilities for their future.

Mothers, fathers and other adults brought girls, usually from the recommended age group of 9 to 15, to workplaces -- putting them behind cash registers, computers and control panels to boost their self-confidence and enthusiasm about their choices in life.

For many girls, the day was an eye-opener about what exactly goes on from 9 to 5.

Kate Bethea knew that her father's job title was senior sales manager of the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel, but she never understand what that meant.

Until yesterday.

"I wanted to know what my Dad did," said 14-year-old Kate, an eighth-grader at Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville.

Richard E. Bethea spent the day with his eldest daughter by his side -- and patiently explained how he contacts potential clients and books conventions.

She toured the hotel kitchen, reservations area and the lounge and chatted with her father's boss, who is a woman.

Before the day was over, she was even chiding him about his work habits. "Another cup of coffee," she told him.

For Keyna Scroggins, the breakneck pace of the day was a surprise.

"I thought it was going to be calmer, kind of easy, but it's not," said 16-year-old Keyna, who spent the day trailing Jacqueline Lampell, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Juvenile Services. "It seemed there were a lot more women working there than men. Which is good, because we can do just as much as a man can do."

That was just the kind of gentle message organizers had hoped to convey.

"We wanted to focus attention on the fact that in adolescence many girls are in crisis," said Miriam Zoll, spokeswoman for the event. "We are concerned enough to show them that we support them and want to work with them as they create their future."

Research has shown that while girls feel self-confident at about age 9, more than two-thirds lose that confidence by the time they reach high school.

One study released by the American Association of University Women found that in elementary school, about 69 percent of girls reported that they were "happy the way I am," but that in high school the figure fell to 29 percent.

Another study worried Diana Taylor, a physical therapist at University Hospital. "They were saying that girls tend to lose interest in math and science around this age, and I was concerned about that," said Ms. Taylor, 27.

So she invited 14-year-old LaTonya Rhoades to spend the day by her side. LaTonya, an honors student, hopes to become a nurse or other health professional.

"I'd been hearing about [the day] on TV, and I thought I could set a good example and show LaTonya what I do here," Ms. Taylor said.

Not only did girls yesterday get on-site training; they also received words of encouragement from some of the country's most successful women.

"I hope you learn today that women do all sorts of different kinds of jobs," Donna E. Shalala, the secretary of health and human services, said at a Washington breakfast that kicked off the day.

Ms. Shalala participated by taking two teen-age girls with her as she met with her staff, testified before a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and attended a White House ceremony.

Around Baltimore, girls were welcomed at the YWCA with a breakfast, and 400 showed up at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn.

Not all were feeling confident from the start. When Shawnte Minor, 12, entered the Stouffer yesterday, she said hello in a voice barely above a whisper.

But after a few hours of distributing files with her mother, Sherrice Flowers, the Johnnycake Middle School student was one of the gang, seeking out her mother's colleagues to talk.

"It's wonderful for young women to see what their parents and grandparents do," said Jane Bryant, director of volunteer programs for the state's Department of Juvenile Services, who brought her 15-year-old granddaughter, Jen Sponsler, to work. FTC "And to have some kind of career goals so that when they're older, they don't have to be dependent upon someone else."

A ninth-grader from Parkville, Jen wants to become a pilot in the Air Force.

Although she has gone along on many work outings with her grandmother, this was her first taste of "Nana's office" -- a handsome room with a window and lots of pictures of her three children and nine grandchildren.

"I didn't know she had her own room," Jen said. "I kinda thought she worked in a big room with everyone else."

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