A Look Back at Women in the Transportation Industry

Julie Shenkman
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Women have come far in the workplace in the past few decades. That being said, women continue to face gender discrimination and are still being paid less than their male counterparts. Even though women have found ways to balance a successful career with the challenges of a family (if they choose to have children) and have become leaders in almost every industry, there is still work to be done.
I thought that to honor womens' struggle for equality in the workplace, it might be fun to take a look back in history to see how far we have come. This is an article that was originally published in 1943 in Transportation magazine. It is a guide for male managers who were dealing with a female workforce working in Transportation and Logistic during World War II. Here is the image:
Since the text is difficult to read, here is a transcript:
Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees: 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. 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 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. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It’s always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.
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. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.
5. Stress at the outset the importance of time 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 employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they’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 less nervous and happier with change.
8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. 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.
9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman – it breaks her spirit and cuts off 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’s uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too much in keeping women happy.”
Even though the information seems sexist and funny now, given the era, I think that this guide was fairly insightful. Keeping in mind that during the time this was published, the managers hadn't been accustomed to having a primarily female staff, and women weren't prepared to become employees. Because of the draft, most able-bodied men where off fighting the war and women went to work to support their families and to support the war effort.
Although, most of the points made would be considered shockingly sexist today, I think that the authors intention was to help male supervisors create a workplace that was welcoming to women. In the 40's, this type of article would, most likely, be viewed as slightly feminist.
What do you think about this article? Let me know in the comments.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.

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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    We have come so far in the workplace! It's amazing to look at these publications and realize that while they seem so old-fashioned to us now, at the time, they were very forward thinking. Shirley - I think it's great that you work construction. I've noticed an increase in the number of women involved in home improvement television shows. Of course, they all are extremely pretty and have perfect hair and nails, but at least it's a start!
  • Jerline Nunn
    Jerline Nunn
    I am 33yrs. old, with a class b cdl, but I want to upgrade to a class a, but it's very difficult.  So do you know anyone who provides free training, without having to go over the road?
  • Shirley Jackson-Gordon
    Shirley Jackson-Gordon
    We have come a long way in the workplace. Still have much more work to do. I myself work in construction for over 13 years. Wasn't given the opportunties as the men to learn everything. When I decided that this was what I wanted to do, I never want to be looked upon as a man or wanted to be a man. I just wanted to come in and do what was required. I noticed that it was things that they would never ask the men to do, that I would be assigned. I never complained, I just went and did what I was assigned to do. As I look back now, maybe I should have complained, maybe today I wouldn't be unemployed. Women let your voice be heard. It doesn't matter if you complain or not, when it comes down to it,  the company to let you go. Learn everything you can, for when you are let go you can pick up and move on. Speak up and demand to be taught everything the men are taught.  

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