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Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees

I am indebted to Messrs. Snopes for this information which was put out in 1943.

“There’s no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage. Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from western properties:

1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they’re less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it; maybe a sick husband or one who’s in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It’s always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that “husky” girls; those who are just a little on the heavy side; are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit but also reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job. Transit companies that follow this practice report a surprising number of women turned down for nervous disorders.

5. In breaking in women who haven’t previously done outside work, stress at the outset the importance of 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.

6. Give the female employe in garage or office a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she’ll 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.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be nervous and they’re happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. Companies that are already using large numbers of women stress the fact that you have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and consequently is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful in issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way that men do. Never ridicule a woman breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husband or father may swear vociferously, she’ll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator uniforms that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too strongly as a means of keeping women happy, according to western properties.

Yes, I know, hilarious. But perhaps a little unnerving too. We have come a long way. And, then again, we haven’t.

In one of my first jobs, I had a very brilliant slightly older male colleague. He had married relatively young and, in his late 20s had two small children. He was destined for greatness. I remember one of my older female colleagues saying fondly “all the senior men see themselves in him; they were just like him”. In fact, she didn’t need to say all the senior men because all the senior people were men. Would he have done just as well, had he been a woman? Well, I’m not so sure.

He would, of course, still have been brilliant and that is always a help. However, a husband probably wouldn’t have given up his job to mind small children the way his wife did, so, if he’d been a woman, he would have been less able to put in the hours. Would a brilliant woman like him have had senior management role models? No. Would senior management have seen themselves in a woman in her late 20s with two young children? Of course not, which is not to say that she wouldn’t have been encouraged and so on but there is an advantage there for the man. I know myself that I am more inclined to look with interest at junior colleagues who are like I was. Of course I do, it’s only natural. And that bringing yourself to attention is useful. It will only get you so far, but it is a good start.

There is, even now, an assumption that of two careers, the woman’s will almost always be the one sacrificed to childcare and the wear and tear of everyday life and all efforts will be focussed on getting the husband up the ladder. I’m not saying it’s a conscious assumption but I believe it is still something that pollutes the air: a whiff of sulphur. Nor am I saying that it is something from which I am immune. A very good friend of mine has a much better career than her husband and I find it surprising, though she is both brilliant and ambitious and why shouldn’t she? But you know who else finds it surprising and a little unnerving? She does. And there’s one of our problems; 65 years after this memo was written, although the language has changed, some of the underlying assumptions remain the same.

While we’re on the subject; see also this slightly depressing little video that the European Commission has put out on the gender pay gap.

3 Responses to “Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees”

  1. Lesley Says:

    I’m a “husky” woman then am I?

  2. gala Says:

    that whiff of sulphur is all the more pestilent in the US, where there is very little institutional or governmental support for childcare or part-time work. compared to belgium, we are still in the dark ages here.

  3. town mouse Says:

    And there are young women now who say they aren’t feminists, who can’t see the point of feminism, and treat it as a dirty word …

    I do know women who’ve taken the career route and let their husbands do the childminding (and in the US too). The more this happens, the less we’ll get the Alan Sugar’s of this world being suspicious of all women employees of child-bearing age because they’ll only go and have children…

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