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BY THE END of the workday, millions of young women across the United States may have gotten a clearer idea of what they want to be when they grow up, following their participation in "Take Our Daughters to Work" day.

The Ms. Foundation, sponsor of today's second annual nationwide effort to inform girls about their future career choices, estimates some 3 million girls between the ages of 9 and 15 tagged along to work with their moms, dads and other adults.

Here in Erie County, dozens of businesses and government agencies participated in what appears destined to become an annual event. The list of participating employers includes the Internal Revenue Service, Nynex and Buffalo City Court.

Mary F. Donovan, office administrative manager at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Williamsville, hopes the day was a real eye-opener for the young visitors. "We want the young ladies to know that there are many choices that they can make about their careers," she. "I think it's especially important they have an opportunity to see some of those options first-hand . . . to watch women work and ask questions."

Liberty Mutual played host to more than 20 girls, including a group of junior Girl Scouts, who will earn badge credit for their one-day stint in the working world.

Ms. Foundation for Women, where the idea for the daughter-parent work day originated, estimates more than 1 million girls participated nationwide in 1993. Organizers expected more than three times as many to accompany a parent, aunt, uncle or sponsor today.

"People are excited about helping their daughters," said Redina Jackson, a Ms. Foundation project assistant. "It's really about helping the self-esteem of girls between 9 and 15."

Lynn M. Marinelli, executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women, said a day at the office can be a very enlightening experience. The children pick up valuable information that may steer them toward, or away from a type of career, according to the county official.

"The child will have a new appreciation and understanding for what their parent does all day. No matter what kind of job it is, it's a chance to take pride in what you do and share it with your child," Ms. Marinelli added.

The Western New York chapter of the Society of Women Engineers gave its young guests a glimpse of traditional, as well as non-traditional career areas for women.

The list of worksite visits arranged through the engineering group include: Praxair, General Motors, DuPont and Occidental Chemical.

Chapter President Mary Lou Markowski, a Praxair employee who holds a doctorate degree in analytical chemistry, said the visits to manufacturing worksites provided a variety of examples of jobs held by women: "Women chemists and engineers, as well as women in clerical, accounting and purchasing areas. The mix will give them an opportunity to see what girls can do, as opposed to what they are supposed to do."

Several area firms offered their young visitors a full day of scheduled activities, such as tours, lectures and some hands-on experience, while other companies left it up to individual departments or even the parent to decide how the child will spend her time.

Ward B. Hinkle, an attorney specializing in securities law at Hodgson, Russ, Andrews, Woods and Goodyear, took his 11-year-old daughter, Charlotte, with him to the annual meeting of Rand Capital Corp.

Hinkle said he hopes the experience gave the Orchard Park fifth-grader an opportunity to see how business is conducted in the corporate environment, while also clearing up her questions about what he does for a living.

"She has no real understanding of what I do all day. I'm a securities lawyer and that's a tough concept for someone that young to grasp," he said.

While more than a handful of boys accompanied their parents to work today, the event is meant to focus on young girls, who particularly at the beginning of adolescence, have lower expectations than boys do.

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