1943 GUIDE TO HIRING WOMEN (WHO SAYS YOU HAVEN’T COME A LONG WAY, BABY?)
The following is an excerpt from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine. This was seriously written for male supervisors of women in the work force during World War II. I’ve put emphasis on key words. When I first found this on the web, I was curious, then amused, and finally offended. What a low opinion male supervisors had of women in the 1940s. Yet, women built the planes, ships, and munitions needed to fight the war; they also filled all the jobs vacated by men drafted for the war. After WWII, these same women, who had helped to win the war, were expected to go home ‘where they belonged,’ so that the better-qualified men could return to work. These attitudes were still in evidence when I began working in the 1960s and 1970s. After each tip, I comment on how the attitude displayed had changed by the 1960s. I hope the atmosphere for women has improved now, in the 21st century, but I wonder what your experiences have been. Please comment and I’ll share the best stories on a later post.
Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees:
“1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters. They are less likely to be flirtatious. They need the work, or they would not be doing it. They still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.” I found that supervisors preferred single women because: they could force them to work over-time (married women could get out of this requirement by claiming that their husbands would not LET them work more hours); they were, honestly, more easy to manipulate and bully than the married women, who tended to have a bit more experience than the younger single women; and, frankly, single women were more easy prey for the letches.
2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It is always well to impress upon older women, the importance of friendliness and courtesy.” While some older people can be ‘cantankerous and fussy,’ when I was teaching, I found that ‘older’ students (anyone from 21 to their 80s) were better students, more dedicated and organized, had life experience to draw from in doing their assignments, and were great role models.
“3. General experience indicates that “husky” girls–those who are just a little on the heavy side–are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.” I have no idea how to respond to this. When I was in my teens and twenties, I was thin and healthy. My experience was that men in many different positions of power (from professors to supervisors) preferred young, single, pretty women–especially blondes. I seriously doubt that one’s weight has anything to do with one’s efficiency and temper.
“4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination–one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.” They were still requiring physicals of women when I began working. My most humiliating experience involved suffering through a physical by the company physician, an older man who looked more like an accountant than a doctor, and whose exam was much too invasive for my taste.
“5. Stress at the outset, the importance of time; the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.” This point was an issue with my younger students, regardless of gender. Most supervisors in the jobs held during my college and grad school years insisted there be ‘no talking’ during the work day, except on breaks, and that got the point across handily. My one objection to such rules was that smokers were often given ‘extra’ breaks to go outside to smoke, while we nonsmokers were expected to take up the slack.
“6. Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they will keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.” Giving any employee a list of duties is a good idea, but it’s patently absurd to believe that women have no initiative. I excelled academically and I learned quickly, so that I usually got my jobs finished before most other workers and, being a perfectionist (but not perfect), I tried to do my job in the most efficient way possible. I think the ‘lack of initiative’ mentioned is really a matter of youth and inexperience.
“7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.” Knowing many different jobs is good for employees (we all get bored) as well as employers. Again, this is not a ‘female’ issue.
“8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.” Eventually, the federal government passed workplace laws requiring that all employees be given rest periods, safe working conditions, etc. I never worked anywhere where women got more breaks than men.
“9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they cannot shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman–it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.” Well, yes, you dope, we are sensitive, but I think ridiculing anyone, man or woman, is counter-productive and just plain mean. If you can’t give instructions or constructive criticism without anger, threats, or ridicule, you should not be supervising anyone.
“10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husband or father may swear vociferously, she will grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.” I think this depends upon the work environment. Growing up, I often heard the milder swear words (hell, damn), but my Dad never used the really ‘bad’ words and I didn’t know what the f-word meant until I got into the work force. In college classes and in my various jobs, I noticed that many men tended to use strong language to shock and/or intimidate us young women. I was at first shocked, but when I realized why they were attempting to bully us (me), I began talking like a drunken sailor (never around my Mom, of course!), and that took away their power over me. After awhile, the ‘bad’ words had no effect on me.
“11. Get enough size variety in operator’s uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point cannot be stressed too much in keeping women happy.” Well, duh…
© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD