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Feminization of clerical work. Theories that have been offered: Human capital theory Women weren’t willing to invest in advanced education Proletarianization of clerical work De-skilling of men’s work Other explanations (quite simply, men and women were treated differently) Marriage bar

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feminization of clerical work
Feminization of clerical work
  • Theories that have been offered:
    • Human capital theory
      • Women weren’t willing to invest in advanced education
    • Proletarianization of clerical work
      • De-skilling of men’s work
  • Other explanations (quite simply, men and women were treated differently)
    • Marriage bar
    • Traditional association between women factory operatives and repetitive work
    • Desire to save money
scientific management and move toward standardization of work
Scientific management and move toward standardization of work
  • “office work is simply production work of another kind, different only in its character, and not as different from factory work, as factory work differs between various factories. Indeed it is light manufacturing and the principles are precisely similar”
    • George Frederick
Women more likely to be hired for office jobs that were being systematized
  • “natural” for women to be seen as candidates for routine work and vice versa
how the marriage bar worked
How the marriage bar worked
  • Reserve army of labor—large population of workers who could be fired, whose low wages made their labor profitable, and who could be considered ineligible for promotion
    • Temporarily permanent employees
  • Two tracks seen for men and women
    • “generally if you can say a boy has pep and a girl is quiet, you have satisfied the business man.” --high school principal
role of the government in feminization of clerical labor
Role of the government in feminization of clerical labor
  • Women hired by the US Treasury during Civil War
  • 1890 census—women hired to punch cards
  • Federal law in 1890s– set maximum salary for male federal employees at $1,800 and for females at $900.
  • More civil service clerical examinations opened to women after 1910—by 1919 women barred from 64% of exams for scientific and professional positions and 87% of those for mechanical and manufacturing positions, but were eligible for 85% of clerical examinations
development of word processor
Development of word processor
  • Three origins
    • Data processing
    • Programming
    • Office equipment
  • Text production seen as women’s work
    • Designed word processors along lines of typewriter
  • Produced a limited-use piece of equipment and a short-lived clerical position
pre civil war
Pre-Civil War
  • Agrarian economy primarily, with increasing manufacturing
  • Office jobs
    • Copyist
    • Bookkeeper
    • Messenger
    • Clerk—varied and integrated tasks
more on pre civil war era
More on pre-Civil War era
  • Lack of standardized office practices
  • Personal relationships
  • Importance of trust
  • Apprenticeship systems
  • Upward mobility for clerks
  • Businesses as a male preserve—no females
post civil war
Post-Civil War
  • Increased volume of business
  • Mergers—larger, more complex organizations
  • Proliferation of correspondence, need for accurate record keeping
  • Increased division of labor in the office
  • Increasing hierarchy
  • Introduction of the typewriter—stenographers and typists replaced copyists
women enter the office
Women Enter the Office
  • During Civil War, US Treasurer hired women clerks as an experiment
  • Stenographers and typists emerged as feminized occupations—never really held by men
  • Typewriter—not sex typed as “masculine” because had not been used by men
  • Employment of women in office not caused by typewriter—probably eased the way
causes of feminization of office work
Causes of feminization of office work
  • Expansion of capitalist firms—growth of offices and need for clerical workers
  • Literacy requirement—not enough literate males
  • Growing managerial jobs—opportunities for men
  • Cheapness of women’s labor
    • “working for pin money”
    • Transient labor
  • Availability of female labor
    • Decline of family-owned farms and businesses
    • Productive work in the home on the decline
ideological arguments
Ideological arguments
  • Women’s nature
    • Con: too moral and pure, or too flighty
    • Pro: purity would improve the business world
    • Both: goal was to marry in either case
  • Women’s physical capacities
    • Less strong, agile, and able to take the mental strain
  • Displacing men
impact of ideological arguments
Impact of ideological arguments
  • Justification for clustering women at lower ranks
  • Justification for lower pay
  • Justification for lack of advancement
impact of scientific management
Impact of scientific management
  • Frederick Taylor
  • Specialization of labor in the office
    • Breaking tasks into steps—restriction of activities
    • Timing work steps--regimentation
    • Applied to the lower levels of the office—not to management
  • Proper sexual division of labor—the right person for the right task
the private secretary
The private secretary
  • 1917 advice book for secretaries—geared to men; 1924 edition—geared to both men and women; 1930’s edition—geared to women exclusively
  • Pre-1900, private secretary regarded as entry level management position (male position); post 1930’s, private secretary (female position) no longer had promotion potential
  • Private secretary as
    • Buffer
    • Servant
    • Office wife
de skilling
  • Replacement of labor with capital
  • Skilled jobs performed by highly paid craftsmen are broken down into simple steps
  • Low-paid, unskilled laborers are hired to perform the simple steps
  • Traditionally “female” jobs not as likely to be de-skilled