Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Planning ahead for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

In 1993, the Ms. Foundation came up with Take Our Daughters to Work Day. The
idea, as explained to me, was to give girls greater exposure to career
opportunities and to boost their self-esteem. The premise was that girls
tended to receive less attention than their male siblings.

I remember the first several years of TODTWD. My firm brought in clowns,
face painters, local celebrities, even zoo docents (me) with animals. There
were coloring contests and other planned activities, and it was the one day
when Mom would forego her calorie consciousness and take the children to
McDonald's for hamburgers. None of the parents got much work done, and the
childless among us (me again) braced for six hours of constant noise,
interruptions, and childish chatter. I recall the daughter of one of our
attorneys making colored mark all over paper; I told her, "Wow, that's
exactly what your mom does all day."

In short, the girls, many eight years or under, must have come away with the
idea that "work" means face painting and other kinds of fun.

By 2003, the original purpose of TODTWD had become lost or irrelevant, and
our sons were now included. With the passage of time at my new employer, I
noticed that this even twas become less and less structured, until even the
coloring contests were no more, or at least were not promoted. The children
come in and meet other children, chase each other around, play on the
computers, and color on their own. This year, a coworker's nephew made us
personalized door hangers.

In other words, the children still don't really understand what their
parents do, other than sit at desks, working with phones and computers.

I've gotten the impression that this how the day goes at other corporate
offices, that it's increasingly downplayed, and that it seldom lives up to
its purpose. I also can't imagine that this event is widely implemented in
non-offices or in more hazardous white- or blue-collar settings. Do
night-shift emergency room nurses bring their children to work? Nuclear
power plant workers? Sawmill workers? Stevedores? Airport security
personnel?

I suspect that TODASTWD boils down to a day spent in an office rather than
at school, a feel-good opportunity for office workers to show off their
children to their coworkers and their offices to their children. Some
parents may explain to the older children what they do, but for the most
part the children seem to play and socialize until they get bored.

If the Ms. Foundation wants to make the day educational and meaningful for
the daughters and sons, I have some ideas for structured activities. The day
itself is the last Thursday in April, so now is not too early to begin
planning.

* Invite the children to a two-hour department meeting where many
carbohydrates and fats are served and where, after much wrangling and
tension, nothing is decided.

* Have the children join their parent for a weekly project status update
with the boss so they can witness the humiliating consequences of not being
able to read a superior's mind.

* As a extra activity, have the children jot down every time the superior
interrupts Mom or Dad to read personal e-mail and take personal phone calls.

* Have Mom or Dad submit a small project that day so the superior can
demonstrated the fine art of criticizing work that he or she cannot do.

* Make sure the children participate in an informal gripe session among two
or more lower-level employees. Point out to them the furtive glances and the
lowered voices, especially when Self-Important Leaders pass by. As a bonus,
have the Leader stop and address someone in the group and have the children
watch the attitude change instantly from sullen to solicitous.

* Do not offer them a lunch break. If the children are to experience
corporate office life, they will need to get used to doing without food and
breaks and to working through the day until at least 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.

* Be honest with them Tell them that what they have experienced is what Mom
or Dad faces every day until retirement or until those lottery numbers
finally come through.

It seems to me that TODASTWD is the perfect opportunity to prepare the next
generation for corporate slavery. It would give all those daughters and sons
who are short on self-esteem and starving for positive attention something
to look forward to.

3 comments:

  1. I really, really, REALLY hope my new employer does not observe this day. It's already sufficient the days all 3 of his arrive and run - screaming - from one end of the building to the other. I can't even fathom the addition of up to 8 more.

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  2. I'm holding out for Take Our Pets to Work Day.

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  3. I really enjoyed this post -- a nice synthesis of sanity and skepticism. May I suggest making the kids sit still for a PowerPoint presentation too? (No more than six lines per slide, six words per line!)

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