We’ve Come a Long Way Baby….Right?

A friend of mine sent me an article from 1943 entitled Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees a few weeks ago. The article was allegedly published in Transportation Magazine to help male supervisors deal with the sudden influx of female employees during World War II. Given the year it was published, I didn’t take offense to it as I read it (although the comment that “Husky girls – those who are just a little on the heavy side – are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters” really stuck in my craw). Some of the other gems in the article:

“Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination – one covering female conditions…[the physical] reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job”. I laughed hysterically when I read this…partly because I have used the whole “female problems” excuse before to get a day off work after a late night out.

Other gems:

“Give the female employee a definite day-log schedule of duties so that they’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions ever few minutes”. Apparently our pretty little heads can only hold so much information before we get confused and wander around aimlessly in search of a big, strong man to explain it all to us (preferably with pretty pictures).

“Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day…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”. I hate to admit it, but I’m less productive when I’m having a bad hair day. But with a mirror and hand sanitizer at my desk, I’m good.

“…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”. Ignoring the “inside employee” bit (that’s one step away from the house and field slave labels used in the fun ol’ South), this sounds like good dating advice. If I switch up the guys I date more often, I’m less likely to get bored…and according to the article, I’m much happier with change, right?

And last but not least:

“Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiency”. So single women are vapid whores who are only at the workplace to slut around? If that’s the case, I’m totally in the wrong office…

I can’t help but laugh at the old mindset towards women employees. But when you really think about it, how far have women come in the workplace? I have female friends who tell me horror stories about their male supervisor’s male chauvinistic attitudes. But get this: the older women in their offices tend to be just as backward in their thinking on females in the workplace. One friend told me an older woman in her office suggested she was a woman of “loose morals” (not my words) because my friend chose not to wear stockings…in summer…in South Georgia! And then there is the paradox of being aggressive in the workplace. If a man goes after what he wants, he’s considered a “go-getter”. If a woman does the exact same thing, she’s a bitch. Some of the most successful women I know have basically sacrificed their social life in order to achieve her career goals.

Finding that balance between career and social life is hard for all of us, but particularly so for women. Yes, we’ve made some serious strides as a gender in the workplace, but articles like these make me wonder just how far we’ve really come…

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