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Take Your Daughter to Work Day Turns 27: Here’s What’s Changed

The women's workplace has taken a few steps forward, some steps back in the nearly three decades since we've been observing this day.

Aerial View Of Mother Working In Office At Home With DaughterTom Werner/Getty Images

Progress in some areas, setbacks in others

It has been 27 years since the first annual “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Technically, it’s called “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” and was the brainchild of Marie C. Wilson, the former president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the organization’s founder, Gloria Steinem. Back in 1992, Wilson and Steinem discussed research that found that young women’s loss of self-esteem was causing poor performance in school, and decided to do something about it. The first celebration was held on April 22, 1993, and has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April ever since, with the idea being that participants could return to school on Friday and discuss what they had learned with their friends, teachers and guidance counselors. In 2007, the organization behind the event changed names from the “Take Our Daughters To Work Foundation” to the “Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Foundation,” and has been operating under that name ever since. Aside from the organization’s name, here are 12 other things that have changed for women in the workplace in the past 27 years. Learn more about why we celebrate Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

Father with little daughter standing at the window.Halfpoint/Getty Images

This year’s celebration has been postponed

Thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, our lives have been turned upside down for the past several weeks—including Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. On March 16, 2020, Carolyn McKecuen, the executive director of the organization, announced that this year’s celebration will be postponed until a later date in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although, for the same reason, a lot of kids have gotten a glimpse inside their parents’ workday, thanks to many people working from home. But watching a parent work from the corner of the kitchen table isn’t the same as a trip to their office, so it’s no excuse to sit this year out. These moments changed women’s history forever.

Businesswoman shaking hands with client before meeting in start up officeThomas Barwick/Getty Images

The founder thinks fewer people need the day now

In a 2017 interview with TIME magazine, Wilson said that because of the internet, not as many kids—girls in particular—need a dedicated day to attend work with their parents in order to learn about different career options. “It’s more accepted that women are there, working jobs, but it’s not just for girls,” she explained. But that doesn’t mean she thinks the day is obsolete—and in fact, it still performs an important function. “Originally, we started it to remind adult women of what dreams they had,” Wilson told Time. “And there are still plenty of adult women who are not living out their dreams.” This writer agrees that it’s still important for daughters to see their moms working.

People working in creative studio10'000 Hours/Getty Images

The wage gap has gotten worse

We hear a lot about the wage gap—the difference between what working men and women earn. In fact, it seems like awareness of the wage gap is growing. And yet, women are not making much progress. Instead, we’re somehow going backward. In 1993, when Take Our Daughters to Work Day began, women earned 71.5 percent of men’s salaries. Flash forward to 2018 (the last year the data is available) and that number has risen to an 81.6 percent wage gap. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, it will take until 2059 for women to earn the same as men. And things are even worse for women of color: it will take until 2224 until Latinx women to get equal pay, and until 2130 for Black women. Here’s why Black History Month deserves to be longer.

Serious discussion between two business colleagues in office10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Women still aren’t considered equals

Outside of the office, how have views of gender equality changed since Take Our Daughters to Work Day began? A 1993 Gallup poll found that 23 percent of respondents said society generally treats men and women equally, while 62 percent said society favors men over women, and 10 percent said society favors women over men. The same poll was conducted 20 years later in 2013, and things looked a little better, but still not great: 40 percent that society treats men and women equally, while 45 percent said that men are favored, and only 9 percent said that women are favored. Want to get even angrier? Here are 16 ways women still aren’t equal to men.

Smiling female entrepreneur outside auditoriumLuis Alvarez/Getty Images

There are more women serving as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies

It took some time for women to gain traction as chief executive officers of major corporations. In 1972, Katherine Graham of The Washington Post Co., was the first female CEO to make the Fortune 500 list. Though that was promising, as recently as 1995, there were no women serving as CEOs for Fortune 500 companies. Fortunately, things started to improve after that. By 2000, women lead 0.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies. That increased to 1.8 percent in 2005, 3 percent in 2010, 4.8 percent in 2015, and 6 percent in 2020. So yes, 6 percent is better than zero percent, but there’s still a long way to go before anything resembling equality in corporate leadership is realized. Also, women make the best bosses, according to science.

College graduates standing together looking upHill Street Studios/Getty Images

More women are getting college degrees

Back in 1993, 19.2 percent of women had completed four or more years of college, compared to 24.8 percent of men. As more and more people began attending college, the rates went up for both men and women. In 2000, 23.6 percent of women and 27.8 percent of men had college degrees. By 2011, the rate was almost equal, with 30.1 percent of women and 30.8 percent of men completing at least four years of college. In 2014, women had the educational edge, with 32 percent having college degrees, compared to 31.9 percent of men. Since then, women have continued to have higher rates of four or more years of college—in 2019, it was 36.6 percent of women, and 35.4 percent of men. Nagging moms raise more successful children, according to science.

Female Technician Working On Conductor BoardHinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

More women are working in science and engineering

Though science and engineering have been traditionally male-dominated areas, the number of women working in the field has doubled in the past 20 years. According to the National Science Foundation, 714,000 women worked in science and engineering in 1995. That went up to 1,966,000 women in 2017. While that’s great progress, the percentage of women in science and engineering careers compared to men remains relatively low. In 1993, women constituted 23 percent of the science and engineering workforce. By 2017, that had gone up to 29 percent—definitely better, but still not close to being equal. Don’t miss these 13 amazing facts about the women of NASA.

mother holding her newborn baby boyKathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

Family leave policies are about the same

After years of trying to get some sort of improved family leave policy on the books, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) finally passed in 1993—the same year that Take Our Daughters to Work Day debuted. Though it had plenty of shortcomings, it was at least a start. FMLA granted certain categories of women and men up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave following the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child, as well as to care for an immediate family member with a serious illness. And that’s about as far as we’ve gotten as a country in that department. In 2015, the FMLA was amended to include same-sex legally married couples. Other than that, any updates have been made on a state level. For example, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have successfully implemented employee-funded paid leave policies for virtually all workers. We should also note that the United States is the only Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member country to not mandate paid family leave. This is what women’s workplaces used to look like 100 years ago.

High angle view of female entrepreneur concentrating on work while daughter playing at home officeMaskot/Getty Images

More people are telecommuting

Right now, during the coronavirus outbreak, a large portion of the workforce is working from home—something that may make telecommuting more common and accepted once this is over. But even before the pandemic, rates of telecommuting have been increasing. In 2006, 3.9 percent of the workforce worked from home. That went up to five percent in 2016. Another survey found that approximately 43 percent of workers in American reported telecommuting at least some of the time in 2016—an increase since 2012 when that figure was 39 percent. It’s great to have that flexibility, but as it turns out, men have more of it than women. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, men did some or all of their work from home 21.3 percent of the time, while 23.6 percent of women worked from home some or all of the time. Anytime you bring your child to the office you run the risk of having hilarious fails.

African businesswoman working at her deskalvarez/Getty Images

Fewer women are getting computer science degrees

We know that women have steadily been earning more college degrees—and have even outpaced men—and that there are more women working in science and engineering fields. Based on that, you’d think that the number of women getting computer science degrees is also increasing. But it’s not. The female share of computer science degrees went from a high of 28.4 percent in 1994 and 1995, to a low of 17.7 percent in 2008 and 2011, before increasing slightly to 18.7 percent in 2016. So, what’s behind the decline? According to the American Enterprise Institute, “the significant 10 percentage point decline in the female share of computer science degrees from 28 percent to 18 percent, despite the significant resources, funding and attention toward increasing female participation in computer science, is fairly strong evidence that the social engineering experiment to get ‘girls to code’ has failed.”

Group of businesswomen having meeting in boardroom with stunning skyline viewKlaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

The overall percentage of women in the workplace is declining

Globally, the rate of women in the workplace has been decreasing for some time. In 1990, 50.9 percent of women globally were part of the workforce; that has gone down to 47.7 percent in 2019. A big part of this is that women do significantly more of the unpaid labor at home than men. As of 2019, only 1.5 percent of men provide unpaid care on a full-time basis, compared to 21.7 percent of women. But what about the United States? Frankly, we could be doing a lot better. The rate of women’s participation in the workforce peaked in 1999 at 60 percent. By 2018, that had fallen to 57.1 percent of women being part of the labor force, compared to 69.1 percent of men. Cheer yourself up by reading about eight inspiring women who are changing the lives of women all over the world.

Doctor in discussion with mature female patientThomas Barwick/Getty Images

More women are becoming physicians

Thankfully, the image of a doctor as an old white man is changing—albeit slowly. In 1990, 17 percent of physicians were women. That increased to 22.8 percent in 2000, and then to 36 percent in 2015. Yes, that’s progress, but when you consider that in 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that women comprise 50.8 percent of the population, that figure is still on the low side. But, given that more and more women are going to medical school, this could change. In 2019, women made up a majority (50.5 percent) of students in U.S. medical schools for the first time. When you consider that a lot of the older, predominantly male physicians will be retiring in increasing numbers, we’re likely moving toward seeing men and women practice medicine at more equal rates. Next, read on for 11 stories of how Take Your Daughter to Work Day has changed lives.

Elizabeth Yuko
Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer specializing in health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for print and online publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Salon and Playboy, and has given a TEDX talk on The Golden Girls and bioethics.

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