Editor's Note: Not Too Shabby for a 'Lady'
Every so often, e-mails circulate among female friends and colleagues citing a guide to hiring “lady employees” that reportedly ran in Mass Transportation Magazine in 1943. There are 11 fascinating tips in all, but here are a few highlights: • Pick young, married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious. …
• When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some point. … Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves, and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. …
• 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.
• Give female employees 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 the initiative in finding work themselves.
• 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.
• 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.
It’s an understatement to say that we, as a society, have come a long way. But it’s been a slow path in many respects. As recently as the 1980s, the average income among women was 60 percent of the average among men (or, women made 40 percent less than men). In 2007, compensation for “women who worked full-time, year-round was 78 percent of that for corresponding men,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In book publishing, data from Book Business’ annual salary study in 2008 shows that women reported earning an average of 70 percent to 80 percent of what men made.
The journey is not over. I see and hear examples of chauvinism more than I care to admit. Sometimes it’s simply in letters addressed “Dear Sirs.” Sometimes it’s in nonchalant comments (a publisher telling his subordinate (female) staffer to “get dolled up” for a client) or in the exclusion of women in “boys club” corporate cliques. And sometimes it goes much further than that to downright harassment.
Many men, however—probably even the majority today—are not chauvinistic. The problem is that the challenges women face in the workplace don’t only come from the remaining male population. For example, I have talked with women who won’t hire other women who have young children because they’ve gotten “burned” by such women in the past, due to a frequency of unexpected personal days to care for sick children or attend school activities. (I’ve been burned by a number of horrible employees, male and female, who had no children.)
In this issue, you’ll see Book Business’ first-ever list of “50 Top Women in Book Publishing.” The list was created to recognize the significant achievements and contributions that women have made to this industry. They are, by far, not the only women who have impacted book publishing, but they are among the leaders in their fields. Despite the fact that women are sensitive, cantankerous and fussy; lack self-initiative; and need to tidy their hair frequently, they have accomplished a whole heck of a lot. Individually and collectively, they are a force with which to be reckoned.