By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - "Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" turned 20 this year. "I think it changed the culture in terms of how girls and women see themselves," said Nell Merlino, the woman who came up with the idea which started with a question: "What would happen with all girls if they could see what their parents did at work?"
In 1993, The MS. Foundation hired Merlino to come up with a big idea to help young girls. "They gave me a carton literally of research that talked about this drop in girls' self esteem and it was very depressing, suicide rates, pregnancy rates."
Inspired by women she met at her dad's job, Merlino created "Take Our Daughters to Work Day." It's a big idea that continues to impact girls, and boys and parents 20 years later.
"For fathers, particularly, to appreciate that showing their daughters what they do and where they are, where they go and what they do has been so instructive," said Merlino.
Girls and boys began to dream bigger dreams when it came to career choices. Merlino, president of Count Me in For Women's Economic Independence, gave two examples during an interview at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel.
A female Air Force pilot told Merlino that shadowing her father at the airplane hangar where he worked fueled her desire to fly.
"I recently looked at a business plan by a young woman who has figured out, has a patent on a process to change plastic into fuel at landfills," said Merlino. "Would a man have thought of it? Maybe. But he didn't. She did. My whole principle is that girls and women need to see what it is that they can be, and if possible from people who look like them so they can imagine themselves there."
Merlino is in St. Louis for the four-day AEO National Conference. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity is the voice for micro-business, helping millions of entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
"Over 400, 500 members are here and they're really focused on learning, what really works for entrepreneurs," said Connie Evans, president and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.
Last week in Fortune Magazine, billionaire Warren Buffet wrote an essay about women in business. The essay's message: if women succeed, America's economy succeeds. That leads to Nell Merlino's next big idea: a million women entrepreneurs with a million dollars in annual revenue.
"A million women in a million is a trillion dollars in revenue. It's four million new jobs at a minimum. And it is unleashing a level of creativity in product development and service development that is hard for people to imagine," said Merlino. "I regularly see things that if financed properly would dramatically change the health and welfare of the country, of the globe."