“When You Supervise a Woman”: Management Advice from WWII

Now it definitely feels like I’m working more than I should on Labor Day, but one more labor-related nugget comes to us courtesy of the blog Retronaut: a manual published during World War II to help the (male) managers of RCA factories know how to deal with the women flooding into the industrial workplace while the boys went off to war. (H/T The Atlantic)

Here’s general principle #1:

"Women Are Teachable"
U.S. National Archives

Amazingly, much of this advice guides me well in my role as the not-quite-all-powerful chair of a small academic department in a master’s level university. Well, not “”Avoid horseplay or ‘kidding’; she may resent it” so much… I enjoy “kidding.”

Later pages inform/remind managers that “Women are patient” and “Women are cooperative.” Much of it proves disappointingly bland and mostly will make you wonder whether the authors thought less of the women working or the man managing. (“Have the necessary equipment, tools and supplies ready for her”? In case you skipped that day in management class…)

But then there’s the closing advice (“Finally”) to “call on a trained women counselor” for certain situations: e.g., “To find out what women workers think and want” or “To interpret women’s attitudes and actions.”


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