Welcome Kids Into The Workplace More Than One Day A Year

role models, peer segregation, children in workplace, take your child to work day,

Finding out about real world work. (Clarkston SCAMP)

Twenty-some years ago, a radical idea was launched. One day out of the year take girls out of school and bring them to work for Take Our Daughters To Work Day. The practice was intended to give girls a glimpse into possible careers and break down barriers to success. From the start many parents brought both boys and girls. Then the project was officially expanded to include boys. Today it’s wildly popular. Last year 37 million people participated in the U.S. alone.

It’s hard to know how much impact one day a year has on a child’s career aspirations, let alone determine if it breaks down any barriers. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity,

The wage gap persists at all levels of education. In 2011, the typical woman in the United States with a high school diploma working full time, year round was paid only 74 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterpart. Among people with a bachelor’s degrees, the figure was also 74 cents…A typical woman who worked full time, year round would lose $443,360 in a 40-year period due to the wage gap. A woman would have to work almost 12 years longer to make up this gap.

Inequality remains firmly in place for women in business and the sciences. There are larger issues going on here, but spending more than one day a year observing the real world of work might help.

Throughout nearly all of their childhood and teen years our kids are segregated in day care, school, sports, and other activities. Even when they benefit from the very best programs, if they’re restricted to the company of same-aged peers they are deprived of the riches found through fully engaging in the larger community.

This subverts the way youth have matured throughout most of human history, when children learned right alongside people of all ages as they gathered food, built shelters, and performed every other skill necessary to sustain a community. Young people learned more than carving spears and tanning hides, they picked up character traits that would hold them in good stead through life.

Today’s kids still have the age-old desire to gain mastery in areas of interest and to model themselves after those they admire. There’s nothing like being exposed to people engaged in meaningful and useful activities to spark those desires. That’s why I’ve made a point of making sure my kids get the chance to see as much of the working world as possible. Along with members of our homeschool groups and 4-H club, my kids and their friends have gotten the chance to see, up close, the work of chemists, wood carvers, bankers, blacksmiths, forensic investigators, geologists, boomerang athletes, farmers, engineers, chefs, potters, horse trainers, entrepreneurs, and many other adults who are passionate about what they do.

Interestingly, when I’ve asked for our kids’ groups to observe or even take part in the work-a-day world people rarely turn us down. Perhaps the desire to pass along wisdom and experience to the next generation is encoded in our genes.

Age segregation goes both ways—adults are separated from most youth in our society too. After an afternoon together we’ve gotten the same feedback again and again. These adults say they had no idea the work they do would be so interesting to kids. They marvel at the questions asked, observations made, and ideas proffered by youth that the media often portrays as disaffected or worse. They shake hands with young people who a few hours ago were strangers and say, “Come back in a few years, I’d like to have you intern here,” or “We could use an engineer who thinks the way you do. Think about going into the field,” or “Thanks for coming. I’ve never had this much fun at work.”

If you want to help your kids benefit this way, here’s how to activate your knowledge networks and reconnect kids with the larger community.

6 thoughts on “Welcome Kids Into The Workplace More Than One Day A Year

  1. Did that years and years ago…best of best memories (my oldest knew more than my students LOL)

    Hey next encounter, maybe another small jar of honey?

    Daughter smiled when she saw the eggs (and a bottle of honey too)

    Thanks mi amiga


    On 4/22/14 10:01 PM, “Laura Grace Weldon” wrote:

    > Laura Grace Weldon posted: ” Twenty-some years ago, a radical idea was > launched. One day out of the year take girls out of school and bring them to > work for Take Our Daughters To Work Day. The practice was intended to give > girls a glimpse into possible careers and break down barr” >


  2. This type of experience is also a key part of Montessori elementary programs. There, it’s called “going out,” and it consists of children identifying real-world places they’d like to visit, and then organizing trips there. The children make the phone calls to the bakery or machine shop; they figure out how to get there (Public transport? What’s the schedule? Car? Who will we ask to drive?); they set the agenda of what they want to see; they write thank you notes and document their trips.

    At our new LePort Montessori elementary program in Emeryville, CA, we’re very excited to have a large number of interesting businesses in walking distance. It will be fun to see the children make the most out of that proximity!


  3. My husband teaches at our local university, and both of our kids love going to his office with him and participating in his work activities.

    I remember when my son was four years old. A stressed-out student came in for advising, and asked my husband, “What classes do you think I should take?” My son responded immediately, “You should take a swimming class. I take a really good swimming class at Gym Magic.” The student relaxed visibly, chatted briefly about how much fun swimming is, and then got down to business with his class schedule. Take your kids to work often, if only to inject more humanity into the seemingly sterile bureaucracy of life!


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