Horribly sexist, or fantastic HR?

Apply it to everybody, and you've got something.

Someone recently got hold of a 1940s supervisor manual from Radio Corporation of America (later, RCA Corporation, and now broken up with the parts dissolved or absorbed by other companies).

"Great job!"

The manual was prepared during World War II as many women entered the workforce for the first time ever, and was designed to help supervisors deal effectively with female employees.

As you can imagine, the manual has been called "sexist" and "patronizing."

And it kind of is, being aimed only at women. But, if applied to all employees, I think it was ahead of its time. Here are some key excerpts:


Make clear her part in the process or product on which she works.

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.

Suggest rather than reprimand.

When she does a good job, tell her so.

Listen to and aid her in her work problems.

Sounds good to me. Here is some more:


Consider her education, work experience, and temperament
in assigning her to that job.

Have the necessary tools, equipment, and supplies ready for her.

Assign her to a shift in accordance with health, home obligations,
and transportation arrangements.

Inform her fully on health and safety rules,
company policies, company objectives.

Don't change her shift too often and never without notice.

Also good. Another part of the manual recommends limiting women's work hours to 48 a week "if possible"; providing breaks and nutritious food for lunch and snacks; providing clean bathrooms, ergonomic work stations with good lighting, and locker rooms; and using "music during fatigue periods."

Who can have a problem with that? Thankfully, there is nothing in the manual about women's "unique biological needs" (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) or alleged fragile emotional nature. The guide does say that women are "teachable," patient, and "careful."

"We're teachable, patient, and careful, baby!"

Anyway, RCA, wherever you are today, my hat is off to you. These "sexist" and "patronizing" practices are best practices for all employees today. You really were part of the Greatest Generation.

Image Credits: Both from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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