Taking My Daughter to Work and What I Hoped She Would Learn

Today is “Take Your Kid to Work Day.”  A few days ago, I did just that.

Some weeks are fiercer than others.  This week, I was a road warrior traveling to California for a speaking engagement, then red-eyeing home to a full calendar of client appointments the next morning.  Oh, and I brought my 5-year old daughter with me.

What was I thinking?

I wanted to be with her and I wanted her to have a learning experience.

I remember my first “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”  I went to work with my mom when I was 10.  She was an administrative assistant and I was a fifth grader that wanted to be a zoologist.

Clearly, a lot has changed since then. 

Now, a business owner, speaker, trainer, and author, I spend my time juggling client priorities and the priorities of my family.  It is fun work, yet the road can be a lonely place.  That is why I decided to bring my daughter with me to work.

I thought she might just learn something.

Of all places, the California Women Lead conference was set in Disneyland, so it made complete sense.  On day one, we visited the park and soaked up the sunshine.  It started off as a great day, waiting minimal time in line for the rides I rode as a kid – “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and “Splash Mountain.”  Total nostalgia kicked in.

Then, we got in line for the princess exhibit.  An hour later, we were maneuvering a series of dark hallways with princesses in each room – Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Snow White, and Cinderella.  Hardly the most feminist of characters.  A far cry from today’s stronger female characters – Moana and Merida (Brave).

I got my bearings and did what all the moms did, take photos, sit back and watch as the princesses asked their girls questions.  The princesses all asked questions about Jane’s appearance, commented on her necklace, her shoes, and her hair; they did not ask a single question about who she was or what she was interested in.

It is a problem to focus on girls’ appearance over their interests and skills. 

This translates into the workplace.  Women are 4X more likely than men to get feedback on their appearance and personality, whereas men are more likely to get constructive feedback and be assessed on their potential vs. their actual performance.  It is as if we assume men are automatically capable, and women are meant to be seen, not heard.  This behavior is reinforced early.

As I was watching the scene unravel, I took a deep breath, and ventured onto the daring roller-coasters and intense rides, hoping to wash away the princess experience.  That night, I posted my concerns on social media and was surprised to get feedback defending princesses and women taken back by my comments.  While I do see women as strong and beautiful, the beauty image of princesses is not obtainable.  It holds us back, and it teaches our girls to prioritize the way they look over what they know and do.

The next day, I took Jane with me to my speaking engagement on “Engaging Men as Allies for Gender Equality.”  I rarely take her with me to client events, yet thought it was the time to course correct what had happened the previous day.  She sat politely in the back of the room with her tablet and peaked her head up a few times to check on what Mama was doing.  The audience did not notice her until I mentioned this is “why I do what I do” and pointed to the back of the room.  I mentioned a key statistic, that gender equality will not be achieved in the workplace until 2080 (best estimate) and that she would be 67 years old then.

This is not okay. 

After they saw Jane, I did not know what to expect.  To my surprise, I was met with applause.  One woman even called me a “boss mom.”  After the session, a neurologist in the audience came up to me and said, “It is so good that your daughter is here.  The brain is at a critical development stage at age 5, and you modeled important behavior for her today.  Seeing her mom speak and have an audience listen to her matters.”

It was as if Splash Mountain happened all over again.

Tears streamed down my face.  What I had hoped Jane would experience, she did.  The shame of the princess experience was righted.  She learned something after all.  Taking our girls and boys to work matters.  We are modeling the behavior for them to follow someday.

Did you know?

April 25, 1993 was the first ever then “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”  It has since arrived at a more inclusive name “Take Your Kid To Work Day.”  I participated in the first “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” in 1993.  I remember learning what my mom did and getting to help her that day.  I am glad my daughter had the same opportunity.  I hope she remembers it fondly as I do my memories with my mom at work.

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I am a equality, leadership, and career development trainer and speaker.  If you are interested in learning more, simply connect with me at Julie@NextPivotPoint.com.

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