Monday, September 22, 2014

How to Supervise Women

Here's another fun one from the Retronaut: This image plus two others from a brochure intended for male managers at an RCA plant on how to manage women workers. It's from World War II, of course:

Aside from that patronizing label at top left, "Women are teachable," there's nothing in the text that seems particularly gendered to me:

  • Make clear her part in the process or product on which she works.
  • Allow for her lack of familiarity with machine processes (well, maybe reword that to say Show her how to use the equipment).
  • See that her working set-up is comfortable, safe and convenient.
  • Start her right by kindly and careful supervision.
  • Avoid horseplay or "kidding"; she may resent it. (Maybe men like this, but horseplay from a supervisor seems inappropriate to me for employees of either sex.)
  • Suggest rather than reprimand.
  • When she does a good job, tell her so.
  • Listen to and aid her in her work problems.
Other than my couple of parenthetical ponderings, do any of those instructions seem like bad advice for someone supervising male workers?

Maybe part of the point of publishing the brochure was to improve these guys' overall management and supervision, because if they weren't doing these things already, what were they doing? Did the brochure about supervising men read like this?
  • Assume he already understands the process or product on which he works.
  • Assume he already knows how the equipment works.
  • Pay no attention to the work set-up. If it's uncomfortable, safe or inconvenient, that's not your problem.
  • Provide mean-spiritied and sporadic supervision.
  • Create a culture of horseplay or "kidding." Men love that stuff.
  • Reprimand rather than suggest.
  • When he does a good job, ignore it.
  • Don't bother to listen to or aid him in his work problems.
Maybe the women workers brochure is just evidence of the general professionalization of management, forced by having to deal with a different set of workers.

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