There is no slowing down Marie Wilson, who after meeting with us will go speak with women lawyers on the importance of equal rights and advocacy. Her typical day is fully booked with meetings, speeches and making an impact in all that she does. Her background is nothing short of impressive; being the first woman to be elected to the Des Moines City Council as a member-at-large in 1983 and was quickly recruited to help lead then – new startup, nonprofit the Ms. Foundation as President. Marie went on to found the White House Project and wrote three books: Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything, If Women Ruled the World: How to Create the World We Want to Live In, and Mother Daughter Revolution. And along the way she co-founded the influential Take Our Daughters to Work Day, which has since evolved into influential Take Our Kids to Work Day. Here is what Marie had to say…
Why did you start Take Our Daughters to Work Day?
We started Take Our Daughters to Work Day in the late 90s after reading research that came out of the University of Minnesota and also from Carol Gilligan from Harvard University. The research looked at how do you keep adolescent girls strong? Adolescence is a time when girls start to lose their confidence and we wanted to change that. So at the Ms. Foundation, we started conducting experiments and brainstormed various programs that could impact confidence for girls. What could we do to strengthen the young girls, the daughters in this country? How could we expose them to different environments that would help them see beyond just their adolescence? We thought…what would happen if girls went to work?
What could we do to strengthen the young girls, the daughters in this country?
What was the initial response to Take Our Daughters to Work Day?
It was so contagious that we were overwhelmed by the positive response. We set up answering machines to help respond to the self-organizing movement.
Why do you think this movement went viral? What made it stick?
The response was so strong because we gave people the tools to make an impact themselves. We weren’t just saying “girls need more confidence.” We were saying “this is how you can make a difference to empower girls to have more confidence.” We were providing the tools and making it easy to activate.
Tell us about your career before co-founding Take Our Daughters to Work Day. What kind of work were you doing?
Before Take Our Daughters to Work Day, I was in academia and public service. I worked at Drake University, creating one of the largest women’s programs in the country at that time.
What influenced your passion for public service?
I have always had a passion for giving back. Specifically, because I’ve always been interested in things that affect change. Growing up, I volunteered and spent time with the tenement farmers’ children and would spend time reading and playing with them. I’ve never seen such poverty before or after. The way these children cared about us being there really moved me. I could see first-hand how the community could help change lives.
I could see first-hand how the community could help change lives.
The Civil Rights Movement also influenced my passion for public service. When I was at Vanderbilt University, the Civil Rights Movement was at its’ peak. Now-Senator Lamar Alexandra and I were actually appointed on a famous Civil Rights Case about a Divinity School student who participated in a sit-in and whether or not to expel him. Lamar and I both voted not to expel him…they did wind up expelling him and shortly thereafter I left Vanderbilt.
What is your advice for young women?
We as women can be so hard on ourselves and hold ourselves to such high standards. It is important that young women know that they do not need to beat themselves up.
What is still left to be done to ensure women achieve parity?
If women aren’t in the places where decisions get made, we won’t get the changes we need.
The White House Project and other training groups have worked so hard to equip women to run for political and now we are seeing the results of this training. Women are starting to run for more positions at all levels of government. I believe that after this past presidential election, more and more women understand the importance of women’s voices, vision, and abilities being at the tables of power.
We also need to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender; it seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.
We heard that if you weren’t in public service you may have found yourself in the world of fashion…
I always loved clothes. Clothes are a form of art. My grandmother worked on the drapes for The White House and the Met and we both just loved how clothes make you feel. Taking design classes is something I would have enjoyed.
We need to model ambition and women’s equality for our daughters (and sons!) Here are a few ways you can get involved:
Share Your Story
Do you remember your #TakeOurDaughtersToWorkDay story? Tag @ToryBurchFoundation on social and share your #TakeOurKidstoWorkDay story.
Post a photo of you and your child at work and tag @ToryBurchFoundation.
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