20th Anniversary of Take Our Daughters to Work Day: Its History & Success

Today is the 20th anniversary of Take Our Daughters to Work Day. We took Carol Gilligan’s research on how girls' sense of voice and power at adolescence suddenly fell and used it to create a day where girls were paired with people who could acknowledge them for attributes that strengthened their self esteem, build their resilience, and introduce them to workplaces and careers many of them had never dreamed of.

Take Our Daughters was invented and carried out by the Ms. Foundation for Women. As with many of the MAKERS stories of women who went out to change the status quo, our story took time. We spent two years consumed by experimentation, a few failures and finally, success. And, like most big successful ideas, it had many "mothers" who made it happen.

The original event was scheduled for New York City, but when an article in Parade magazine struck a chord with women (and men) in the media who had witnessed the silencing of a girl in their life, the word spread further and faster than we could have ever imagined. Take Our Daughters went viral before there was a web. Today, the day is celebrated in countries across the world by tens of thousands.

Take Our Daughters, and now Daughters and Sons to Work Day, has propelled young girls into jobs they had known nothing about--from NASA to The White House. It has also called more attention to boys' lives and has showcased research illustrating how increasingly more and more boys expect to take bigger roles in parenting and also expect their future workplace to honor that.

The stories that emerged from the collection of Take Our Daughters days over 20 years are legion. There were the daughters who heard their fathers investing in tobacco, confronted them at home, and overnite that investment policy changed. There was even a woman in a U.S. government office who didn't initially want to host a girl and ended up taking her on for a lifetime of mentoring.

The event taught me an important lesson about change: Far too often we tell or hear people saying something that needs changing, but we don't give them the tools, not even one tiny step, they can take to make that change. That was the ultimate beauty Take Our Daughters; we gave people a specific action to take, and believe me, many of the hosts were as affected as the girls they hosted. It's why this event has worked through the years.

Toward the end of her life, my mother told me she was sorry she had "taught me to serve." And when I asked her "Why on earth?" she said, "You'd be rich.” I answered, “But I am rich, just in a different way. I got to work with other women and make things that change lives.”


// Marie Wilson is a women's activist who founded and served as President of The White House Project, and also co-created Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Watch her story. //