CHELSEA CLINTON TURNS 13 THIS week. And even though she’s living in the White House and can throw some terrific slumber parties, she’d be the first to say that being a teenager is no picnic—no matter where you live. Most kids are trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for, and it doesn’t matter whether your dad is the President—or a managing editor. As the father of a son and two daughters—one of whom is a vibrant 13-year-old just like Chelsea—I feel a special kinship with Bill Clinton: Our daughters reduce us equally to wistfulness and wonder.
In order to find out more about the real lives of teenage girls in America, PEOPLE sought out a group of girls growing up in different places and in different ways but with at least one important thing in common: They were all born on Feb. 27, 1980, Chelsea Clinton’s birthday. Starting out on the same date, and sharing the common experiences of their generation, they give us a unique glimpse into what the newest cohort of teenage girls around the country thinks about and cares about (see page 32).
We heard about the value of friends, the trouble with parents, worries about the planet—and, of course, boys. But we were also listening for another theme in their young, female lives. According to recently completed research by Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan and Lyn Mikel Brown, co-chair of the education and human development program at Colby College in Waterville, Me., girls, significantly more than boys, suffer a dramatic loss of self-esteem as they move through their teens. Gilligan and Brown (see interview, page 37) conclude that society stifles adolescent girls by teaching them to value relationships over accomplishments.
Of course, girls can and do grow up to succeed at all manner of jobs. Which is precisely the point of an exciting event this spring called Take Our Daughters to Work Day, sponsored nationally by the Ms. Foundation for Women. On Wednesday, April 28, hundreds of thousands of girls between the ages of 9 and 15 will go to work with a parent, relative or friend. The idea is to help girls at this critical stage in their lives become more familiar with the workplace and show them that they will be valued and heard there.
Women have significant responsibilities in all areas of PEOPLE, and we are looking forward to bringing our own daughters into the office to show them what women do here. Some of our staffers’ young family members have already come in to check out the premises. Says assistant managing editor Susan Toepfer, mother of Kate Carcaterra, 10, and Nick, 6: “My daughter once said to me, I can’t become President when I grow up. A girl can’t be President.’ If they can’t see role models, they can’t even imagine the possibilities.” Ann Jackson, PEOPLE’S general manager and the mother of Sam, 10, Nicholas, 8, and Lucy, 2, agrees: “My daughter is very independent. I would hale to see that just vanish.” She adds, “My two boys are very jealous. They keep saying, ‘Mommy, when’s Take Our Sons to Work Day?’ ”
For more information on how you can help your company or community participate in the Take Our Daughters to Work Day, contact the Ms. Foundation for Women, 141 Fifth Avenue, N.Y., N.Y., 10010; (212) 614-9386. They have information and suggestions for both schools and businesses. In the meantime, if the kids you see hard at work on this page are as successful as we think they can be, you had better get ready to subscribe to PEOPLE FOR TEENAGERS.