Care.com

Patrick Ball @PatrickBall

recovering journalist. content and strategy at Care.com. writing about policies, problems and benefits affecting working families.

What’s the Difference Between a Software Developer and a Poet?

If your answer to that question was “gender” you’re probably one of two things:  

1)  Wildly inappropriate

2)  The Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation’s “Dream Calculator

Really. 

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is Thursday, April 23. This well-intentioned national program, meant to inspire children across the nation, has come a long way these past 22 years. A couple of major milestones – growing from 14 countries in 1996 to more than 90 in 2011, and the inclusion of boys in the program in 2003.

But there’s still a long way to go in terms of inspiring gender equality and empowering girls and boys to “dream without limitations and think imaginatively about their family, work and community lives.” 

The Test

Online calculators and quizzes are great.

Great for ballparking what your mortgage might be on a $440,000 Cape in Cambridge. Or how much or pay a babysitter in Baltimore. Or which house you’d be sorted into at Hogwarts.  Calculating your dream job? Not so much.  

Let me explain.

As I was poking around on the Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation’s website thinking about writing a blog post, I stumbled upon the “Dream Calculator.” I decided to try it.

What's Your First Name?

Patrick

You Are a: 

Boy

How Old Are You?

30

What kind of work would you like best? (multiple choice)

Writing stories

Tell Us Where You'd Like to Live (multiple choice)

A suburb or town next to a city

Tell Us Where You'd Like to Work (multiple choice)

A big company with offices all over the country

Tell Us What You Think About Family (multiple choice)

2 children

 

PatricksDreamJobs

 

“You could be a Computer Programmer or Website Designer!” proclaimed the calculator.

Hmmm. Something doesn’t compute, and that something is me.

We talk quite a bit about gender equality around here – Care.com being a company that’s about 70 percent women and has a mission of connecting modern families with solutions for their care needs, it comes up. Kind of a lot, actually.

So I decided to take the test as again, this time as a 30-year-old girl named Lucy. Here’s how that went:

What's Your First Name?

Lucy

You Are a:

Girl

How Old Are You?

30

What kind of work would you like best? (multiple choice)

Writing stories

Tell Us Where You'd Like to Live (multiple choice)

A suburb or town next to a city

Tell Us Where You'd Like to Work (multiple choice)

A big company with offices all over the country

Tell Us What You Think About Family (multiple choice)

2 children

 

LucysDreamJobs

“You could be an Author, Reporter or Screenwriter!” the calculator announced. 

Sweet. Sounds like me. In fact, I used to be a reporter and still write things, and those things get published and presented from time to time.

Except … yeah, I’m not a 30-year-old girl named Lucy.   

Not cool.

 

Gender Equality Anyone?

It’s even less cool when you start to run the numbers.

Median pay for a software developer? $93,350, or roughly $44 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Median pay for journalists is about $38,000. My first job out of college was as a newspaper reporter, and I made $12.11 an hour – that’s two bucks less than I made at the pizza place where I worked during my (unpaid) internship at the paper.

Poets, surprisingly, make a bit more. They get lumped in with lyricists and screenwriters, and have an average range from $48,000 to $72,000.

Obviously, online calculators are meant to be used for fun, not predicting the future.

And I should say here that this calculator appears to generate pretty random results. Although it took me seven tries to land on “author, reporter or screenwriter” as 30-year-old Patrick’s dream job, when the same came up three of five times for Lucy.

What a bummer though.

Especially a week after Equal Pay Day. Especially when you think about all the work going into building up women’s participation in STEM fields. Especially considering how hard tech companies struggle to attract and retain female talent. (Frozen eggs, anyone?)

Take Our Daughters to Work Day was started by the Ms. Foundation back in 1992, reportedly to address self-esteem issues in girls. The program expanded to include boys in 2003. Its message, today, is one of gender equality.

“Children learn that a family-friendly work environment is an employer and family issue and not just a woman’s issue,” the website says. “Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work helps girls and boys across the nation discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life.”  

And yet, here’s a “ready-to-use” quote from co-creator Gloria Steinem, included in the program’s media kit:

When we initially created Take Our Daughters to Work Day, we knew it was only responding to part of the problem – exposing girls to opportunities they were previously shut off to. We always envision the equal or other have of this was ‘Take Our Sons Home Day,’ since they have equally been deprived of exposure to what work the home requires. Now with Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, we have envisioned both.

Mmmkay.  

It’s 2015. That kind of thinking is so last century. 

Women are working, and men are helping at home. Prince William’s unpaid paternity leave didn’t even break the Internet. The only thing standing in the way of a more equally shared breadwinner-caregiver dynamic is ourselves, and these type of well-intentioned, yet outdated ideas.

Don't get me wrong: I hope my co-workers bring their sons and daughters to work. And, someday, I'll bring my own kids to work.

Because I want our daughters and sons to see people from all walks of life working together. And I want them to know that their career paths are limited only by their imaginations. 

I just won't send them to the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work website. 

So, anyway. Sound off: Will you be bringing your daughter or son to work on April 23? Why or why not? And how do you teach your sons and daughters that they can be whatever they want to be?