May 5, 2013

Princesses only: Ordinary women need not apply

An interesting historical employment document has been circulating on the web recently - a 1938 job rejection letter from Walt Disney Studios to an aspiring young female animator. It's of interest because the reason for the candidate's rejection is simply that the candidate was a woman, and as the letter states, "women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen." The beautifully preserved letter on vintage letterhead goes on to say that the work is performed entirely by young men, and therefore, "girls are not considered for the training school."

For related documents that depict the role of women in the workplace, see our posts on the 1943 Disney Handbook and Danger: Women at Work, a WWII era training clip.

In fairness to Disney, job discrimination against women was the order of the day 75 years ago ... in fact, a lot more recently than that. Employment listings were routinely categorized as "male" or "female" jobs and a job candidate's sex was routinely used as a reason for rejection. In reading historic documents, sex discrimination was actually added to the EEOC as a "poison pill" that many thought might doom the legislation:

"...After all, the prohibition against sex discrimination had been added as a last minute amendment by Congressman Howard Smith of Virginia who opposed the civil rights legislation and thought that Congress would reject a bill that mandated equal rights for women.
Indeed, most supporters of Title VII initially opposed the Smith amendment because they, too, thought that it would doom the legislation. The amendment stayed in because female members of Congress argued that there was a need to protect equal job opportunities for women. Congresswoman Katherine St. George of New York argued that she could think of "nothing more logical than this amendment" and that while women did not need any special privileges "because we outlast you, we outlive you, . . . we are entitled to this little crumb of equality." The need for this "little crumb of equality" was dramatically illustrated by the unexpectedly large number of sex discrimination charges filed in that first year."

For more on job discrimination and the early years of laws prohibiting such discrimination, see the EEOC's 35th Year Anniversary 1965-2000

October 9, 2011

Is your job misunderstood?

Last month, The Atlantic had a fascinating feature on jobs as part of their Labor Day roundup on work-related articles. They asked readers to "tell us what people don't get or don't appreciate about your job." They culled out an A to Z encyclopedia of reader responses and served them up in an article: What people don't get about my job: From A(rmy soldier) to Z(ookeeper). Ranging from an IRS employee to a bass player and everything in between, some people offer pithy one liners and others offer short essays. Together, they offer a pastiche of the American workforce.

It occurred to us that a larger company could engage in a similar exercise in the company newsletter too - we've all worked in places where the jobs vary considerably, and one department has minimal understanding of what other departments do. Why not offer employees a platform to talk about what's misunderstood or under-appreciated about the role they play in your organization?

Along the same line as The Atlantic feature, a question was posted to the help board Ask Metafilter: "What is the first question people ask when you tell them what you do? Are there common misconceptions or generalizations that people make? How do you tactfully and/or humorously correct them? For example: "So, you're a linguist eh? How many languages do you speak?""

The query elicited 156 far-ranging responses, but we warn you, it's addictive reading (and be aware there is the occasional use of a four-letter expletive).

We didn't see much about human resources, but Susan Heathfield of About.com' Human Resources offers Seven Reasons HR Is Often Misunderstood. But when it comes to truth and myths about the HR Field, no one says it better than the kids in this humorous HR.com commercial.

August 5, 2011

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain de Botton, renowned essayist, philosopher and founder of The School of Life, examines the nature and function of work. Most of our waking hours are spent at work, and yet we rarely challenge the basic assumptions that lie behind this time-consuming, life-altering activity. A thoughtful and entertaining talk - don't miss the part about HR Departments (from about 13:15 to about 17:00)

March 8, 2011

A focus on women in the workplace - now and then

This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and today is the start of a series of commemorative global events that will continue through the month. The UN Has identified this year's theme as: Equal access to education, training and science and technology."

The Division of Labor has issued a special statistical focus on Women At Work. It encompasses a lot of interesting data about working women - here are a few highlights:

  • In 2009, 59 percent of working-age women in the United States were in the labor force. This percentage has increased from 43 percent four decades ago.
  • By 2010, nearly 65 million women had jobs, and 53 percent of these women worked in the three industries that employed the most women: education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; and local government.
  • The ratio of women's to men's earnings, for all occupations, was 81.2% in 2010. The ratio varies by occupation. In occupations such as personal financial advisors, retail salespersons, insurance sales agents, and lawyers, for example, the earnings ratios are lower than the overall ratio of women’s to men’s earnings. In occupations such as stock clerks and order fillers, bill and account collectors, and combined food preparation and serving workers, women earn more than men.

We thought it might be fun to take a look back and found a few clips that give an idea of just how far women have come over the last generation or two. If you are at or around boomer age, these clips may not be totally surprising, but they should be pretty mind blowing for anyone of younger generation! (Ladies, go home and thank your Moms and Aunts for paving the way to a more egalitarian landscape.)

The first clip is a training film from 1944 entitled "Supervising Women Workers" - obviously a special challenge!

In "The Trouble With Women," a clip from 1959, we see that a decade and a half didn't do much to enlighten male supervisors about how to deal with female workers.


November 27, 2010

Why work doesn't happen at work

Have you ever thought about the parallels between sleep and work? Jason Fried has, and in his recent 15-minute TED talk, he makes the case for why the workplace keeps getting in the way of worker productivity. He offers three concrete suggestions for shaking things up.

Fried is the co-founder and president of 37signals , a Chicago-based company that builds web-based productivity and collaborative tools, which are well worth exploring.

eXTReMe Tracker