Girls' Day Out

A NEW survey commissioned by the Ms. Foundation for Women and Seventeen magazine finds that young people of both sexes have trouble coping with stressful lives. But boys, the study says, feel more self-confident than girls, are more comfortable standing up for themselves, and can better handle criticism.

The foundation likely would be the first to concede that the findings are not new. Today's "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" (sponsored by - who else? - the Ms. Foundation) is relevant and should be taken seriously precisely because so little has changed: Starting at about age 9, too many girls appear to begin losing confidence in themselves.

From its inception four years ago, the day has been controversial. It was designed as an opportunity for girls ages 9 to 15 to visit their parents or other adults at work. Some girls see it simply as a day off from school. Some companies think it's intrusive. Some school administrators believe it's disruptive. Still others say it's sexist.

It's true that a single day spent in the workplace won't solve the problem of low self-esteem. It is, however, one way of paying particular attention to girls' needs. 0f the girls in the Ms. Foundation/Seventeen study, 96 percent say they expect to work outside the home when they're older; this is a chance for them to get a different perspective on what that world is like.

It's also an opportunity for girls to see women dealing effectively with pressures and challenges at a time in their own lives when they're beginning to lag behind boys in this area.

Girls, according to the survey, tend to feel other people judge them on superficial traits, while they use more- meaningful measures to judge themselves. It certainly can't hurt for these girls to see women being valued for their intelligence rather than judged on their appearance, for example.

So, yes, there are problems with "Take Our Daughters to Work Day." That boys are left out is one frequently mentioned. A day devoted to girls in the workplace should not imply that boys don't have their own challenges and don't require good parenting and mentoring. Those needs should be addressed every day.

But listen to the boys themselves: In the survey, 75 percent of the boys say women face job discrimination; 61 percent say women have to work harder to achieve the same level of success as men. One day at the office won't change that for these future female workers, but it's a start.

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