Some add sons to 'Daughters to Work Day'

April 28, 1994|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff Writer Joel Obermayer of The Sun's staff and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.

For some Baltimore-area companies and government agencies, today's "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" is a total misnomer. The truth be told, both daughters and sons will be joining parents and friends in workplaces around town.

"We are very much participating and boys are invited," says Phil Gambino, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn. The SSA is expecting about 400 students -- about the same number that participated last year -- to visit during this second annual event.

"Last year, a half million to a million girls participated, and we are expecting more this year," says Marie C. Wilson, president of the Ms. Foundation, which started the program as a way of fostering girls' self-esteem.

"I think the appeal has been that people have all heard the bad news . . . that something happens to girls somewhere around adolescence. They suffer a drop in their self-esteem. Now, we are giving people something to do. We are giving them a way to act," she says.

An informal survey of more than a dozen area companies found at least four, including the SSA, that expect some boys to show up at their workplaces.

At McCormick & Co. parents decided the concept of a day for daughters only was too restrictive, so they organized a "Bring Your Children To Work" day at their Hunt Valley headquarters. About 75 children will spend the day at the company and will have a chance to taste-test taco seasonings, learn about marketing spices and wander through the corporate boardroom.

Liz C. Volski, a purchasing agent who is organizing the event, says the employees planned to emphasize broad themes, like the need for children to learn skills in school that they will use when they work later on.

Becton Dickinson & Co. is inviting both genders to a specially organized program of speakers and product demonstrations.

"Becton Dickinson wanted to expose both the boys and girls to health science careers," says Allie Shaw, who handles public relations for the medical diagnostic instruments manufacturer.

"They are involved in science education, and this is an opportunity for them to reach out to a whole slew of youth and to tie it into their company," Ms. Shaw says. About 50 to 60 youths from kindergarten to 12th grade are expected to join their parents, she says.

The PHH Corporation also invited sons as well as daughters to spend the day at their parents' workplace.

"We are using the guidelines from the national organization that came up with the idea," says S. Peter Brinch, a spokesman for the business service company. "We just enlarged it. We opened it up to boys."

This is the company's first year participating in the event. Children will tour the business, hear speakers and spend time with parents.

Many AT&T installations have chosen to allow all children to come in today, but at the firm's sales office in Bethesda, employees opted to keep it girls only, says Joanne Lowy, the business planning manager there. The group plans to have a separate "Bring Your Sons To Work Day" in May or June, she adds.

Like this Bethesda office, the Ms. Foundation's focus remains on girls. And that has created a measure of controversy around the program.

"We have difficulty with the unequal treatment of males and females," says Ken Nichols, an administrative assistant with the Anne Arundel County school district, which did not promote the day last year either.

Though this year, parents can request that their children be excused, he says. Each principal then decides if missing a day will jeopardize the child's grades, Mr. Nichols says.

Others have labeled "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" elitist, aimed mainly at the daughters of professionals and neglectful of the problems faced by women working in sweatshops and other low-paying, and sometimes dangerous, jobs.

It also has been attacked as emphasizing "the feminist bias against the home and family" by the Concerned Women for America, which bills itself as the nation's biggest "nonpartisan, politically active women's organization" with more than 600,000 members.

"Women who believe they can 'have it all' try to make motherhood an illegitimate profession," says Beverly LaHaye, the group's president.

Ms. Wilson of the Ms. Foundation concedes some organizations probably participate in the program only as "window dressing," but adds that "when the girls get inside, something happens" to open the eyes of both the children and the companies.

Psychologists, too, say the program can have a good impact on both parents and their children.

"Adults' lives are a mystery to children," says Carol Tavris, a Los Angeles research psychologist whose most recent book, "The Mismeasure of Women," is a critique of psychological studies of women. "Getting a chance to peek behind the curtain and see what the parent does is very exhilarating."

Adds Ms. Volski of McCormick & Co., "[Children] always wonder why mom or dad leaves home so early and comes home tired. Answering that is what the day's all about."

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