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Celebrating Girls in a Big Way

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What an incredibly HUGE gift I received this morning -- today, on the 18th anniversary of the first Take Our Daughters to Work Day, which I created with the Ms. Foundation for Women. I was walking through Madison Square Park this morning, as I do every morning, and was bowled over by a breathtaking giant sculpture -- 44 feet tall! -- of a 9-year-old girls head. Called "Echo," it's a giant fiberglass resin face of a young girl in a dream state and was inspired by a real 9-year-old. The focus of Take Your Daughters To Work Day was to grab girls ages 9-14, when they are most vulnerable to loss of self-esteem. I wish every girl could see this artwork -- it's monumental and so beautiful, and the look on her face is peaceful. The artist, Jaume Plensa, who is from Spain, did an amazing job.

For years I've observed girls on the street going to work with adults and spoken to groups of girls across America, but this was the first time I've ever seen anything that was -- literally -- in my face in such a big way. Soon after the success of the early Take Your Daughters to Work Day I was asked to develop a project for the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY. The goal was to get more statues of women in public places around the United States. I did some research on the subject -- it turns out, not surprisingly, that there are very few statues of women anywhere in this country.

The answer's not especially surprising, either: Around the time the majority of public statues were being built, women were hidden from view. Women didn't do anything in public that was worthy of attention. True, there's now a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt in Riverside Park, and one in Harlem of Sojourner Truth. But that's it. The majority of statues of women are anonymous symbols. They're symbols, but not actual people. Really, it's the same reason there have been very few women in the New York Times obituary column: because what women do isn't valued. As more women are publicly recognized in medicine, law, politics, business, the arts and more -- the opportunity to be commemorated in marble or bronze -- we'll see more of them.

The National Women's Hall of Fame project never got funded, so it was even more thrilling for me today to see such a gigantic female representation in a public space. The goal of Take Our Daughters was to make girls more visible, valued and heard. To help them live their dreams. Take Your Daughter to Madison Park -- run, don't walk! -- and help her dream bigger than any of us have ever imagined.