Open days can clear a career path for girls

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The Independent Online
A SUCCESSFUL American campaign to introduce schoolgirls to the work environment and to the idea of aiming for senior jobs has been imported into Britain. 'Take Our Daughters to Work' has already attracted the support of the BBC, the Body Shop and the Industrial Society, as well as Opportunity 2000 - the Government- backed initiative to promote women's career prospects.

When the event happened for the first time last year in the US, half a million girls took part. Since then, some employers have made it a monthly event. The organisers believe it could attract 250,000 British girls when it takes place on 28 April next year.

In a survey of British employers, 76 per cent of those in the public sector and 40 per cent of businesses said they were willing to take part, along with 88 per cent of schools.

Girls between nine and 15 will be taken into work by parents or on school trips, and encouraged to think of careers in senior positions. 'Girls are tracked off early into a narrow range of career opportunities. But there are many more occupations available - such as accountants, airline pilots and journalists,' said Helen Brown, who is co-ordinating the event on behalf of the Office for Public Management.

With only 20 per cent of girls seriously considering careers,Ms Brown believes that if employers want to get the best staff then 'they should use their influence before the career choices have been made'. Research indicates that more attention is given to boys' education and career prospects.

Ms Brown also argues thatbreaking down male domination at work is to the benefit of an employer. 'Organisations need to nurture a diverse workforce, or else they will have a narrow view, which reduces their ability to innovate.'

One of the employers involved in 'Take Our Daughters To Work' is the Croydon NHS trust. Its chief executive, Judy Hargadon, took her elder daughter into a hospital participating in the scheme when she was in the US last year. She liked what she saw. 'There was a chance to look at four different areas of work. Not all of them were high-powered, but many were jobs not traditionally done by women.'

Other employers also committed themselves to involving girls. 'One publishing company got them toE produce a magazine that day,' Ms Hargadon recalled. 'Girls onTHER write error the stock exchange were trading in pizzas. It gave them a real sense of work.'

Contact the Office for Public Management, 071-837 9600.