Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is coming up this Thursday, April 27. In honor of that, we wanted to catch up with the woman who was the creative force behind its origins: Nell Merlino. Nell conceived of the day — originally Take Our Daughters to Work Day — in 1993 as a way to help young girls dream bigger about their futures. Today, she is still working to Move Humanity Forward and help young women become the leaders they deserve to be in their own lives.
1.) You created Take Our Daughters to Work Day in 1993 as a way to help girls dream bigger about their future. What do you see as the value and importance of this in 2017?
Take Our Daughters to Work grew out of the aftermath of the Anita Hill hearings and the failure of the Senate to take Anita Hill seriously. We thought if the workplace was full of girls people would show them respect for what they want to accomplish and not objectified them. Yesterday, a too big to fail man, Bill O’Reilly was fired for harassing too many of our daughters, nieces, sisters, mothers and granddaughters. Girls going to Fox News on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day will be walking into a workplace that is finally taking them seriously as human beings.
The other amazing thing that happened is that in 1993 girls went to work with fathers in places where almost no women worked. Today, all sectors of the economy are open to women as employees and business owners. The only jobs a woman hasn’t had yet is President of the United States, Pitcher for the Yankees and Pope. Women can work everywhere, we still have to fight for equal pay and more places in the front office but we are everywhere. Take Our Daughters to Work Day populated workplaces with females and women employees soon followed.
2.) How do you think the changing face of work in America has changed what we need to teach our children about the workforce?
Girls are not prepared for the sexism, harassment and fear they experience online. According to the UK 2016 Girlguiding Attitude Survey, 70 percent of girls aged 11-21 say sexism is so widespread it affects most areas of their lives and 49 percent of girls aged 11-21 say fear of abuse online makes them feel less free. We encourage girls to study STEM while the workplaces in STEM are as closed and hostile to women as the military, finance and media have proved to be. Forty-one percent of young women who go to work in STEM drop out of those jobs quickly. We need to prepare girls to work in STEM because all jobs and careers will have technical and scientific elements and girls will also have to be prepared to transform those workplaces (Uber, the Marines, Fox News, The White House etc) to make them fit for women and men to thrive.
3.) You’ve also used your voice and your skills over the years to help female entrepreneurs become successful and to try and reduce the gender wage gap in America. In what ways are you doing that today that you want people to know about?
I am working with The Female Lead campaign to help girls be the leaders in their own lives. We are currently working on a Girls to Women Summit that will prepare girls for 21st century womanhood.
4.) What do you believe to be the top issues facing women in the workplace today? In what ways do you think we can educate our children about these issues so that they can hopefully help overcome them in the years to come?
Women still don’t make the same money as men or enough money to support their families. As traditional jobs continue to disappear and change, children need to learn about a range money making skills in school taught by independent contracts and entrepreneurs along with people who work at companies. We need to keep images and stories of women in charge everywhere that kids are so girls and boys can see that women run things – we also have to help girls protect themselves from sexism, racism and bullying online. Women leaders and girls need to work together with the social media providers and gamers to ease up and embrace girls as customers, citizens and human beings.
5.) How do you hope your work will continue to Move Humanity Forward?
Empowering women and girls to visible, valued and heard is my life’s work. As long as girls can see us, can see women being leaders in their own lives girls will find a way to be true to themselves and the world.