How to manage women at work – the 1940s way

by |

In an excerpt from the July 1943 edition of a publication called Transportation Magazine, male supervisors received some useful advice about managing women in the workplace. “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 introduction ran. The point of the guidelines that followed were to help men find the ‘most efficient women available’.

So without further ado, here are their “Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women”:


  1. “Pick young married women.” While they’re less likely to be ‘flirtatious’ they haven’t lost their ‘pep and interest’ in work, like their older married sisters presumably have.
  2. If you do have to hire older women, the writer suggested choosing those who have held down a job before. “Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy.”
  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.”
  4. “Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination – one covering female conditions.” Apparently this would afford the employer legal protection, but would also reveal if the potential employee had any ‘female weaknesses’ that would prevent them from working.
  5. “Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes.” While women are good at being told what to do, they lack initiative.
  6. It’s also a good idea to vary your female employees’ duties. “Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.”
  7. Women should receive plenty of rest breaks, but not so much for the rest. “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.”
  8. Unlike men, women cannot bear harsh criticism. “Never ridicule a woman – it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.”
  9. “Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women.”
  10. “Get enough size variety in operator’s uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too much in keeping women happy.”

Thanks to Bernie Lyons and Rebecca Smith of Farrow Jamieson for sharing the article with HRM Online. The whole article can be read here.

Latest Lighter Side

Employee commitment: get a company tattoo
Wanted: 1 x polar bear scout
Case of missing coffee mug goes viral
Rules apply equally: judge disciplines himself


  • Chris on 2013-05-03 12:14:59 PM

    Although we snicker at these blatant sexist comments, we're not out of the dark ages yet...

    1. Age-ism survives to this day.
    2. We still undervalue the skills and abilities that at-home parents acquire over the years of managing a household; raising children (supervisor skills); volunteering (collaboration skills)and so on...
    3. Obesity is a health issue more than ever for both women AND men.
    4. Along with obesity, a significant health issue that effects productivity on the job is mental health (not gender specific).
    5. To be an effective leader, vision and direction are critical. Every worker needs to know what is expected of her OR him.
    6. Change management has been recognized as a vital component of success in any organization. It is not gender-specific.
    7. We all like to look good. The fitness industry, cosmetics industry, clothing industry, tourism and recreation all acquire billions of billions of dollars in sales each year. In addition, work/life balance carries strong sentiments in today's organizations.
    8. No one is immune to the negative effects of workplace bullying and harassment. That is why harassment policies had to be created... to protect ALL employees.
    9. Strong language comes from the mind to the mouth. Again, not gender specific. Courtesy in any social environment is a powerful act.
    10. No one works well without proper equipment and safe work environments.

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions