“Women are teachable” 1940’s tips on how to deal with females in the workplace

1940's women in the workplace memo

If you have a male employer or colleagues, then you might want to show them this guide for how to deal with women in the workplace.

It was produced by the Radio Corporation of America for men returning from the war, only to find there were now women employed in their workplaces, such as factories. Can you imagine?! As such, it was deemed necessary that these men were given some coaching on how to navigate this new ‘female’ work dynamic.  

While some of the points are laughable and just plain sexist, others make a lot of sense and really, we wish workplaces today would take note of these (but not the others).

Check it out and have a chuckle.

“See that toilet and restrooms are CLEAN”

Now some of the health and safety points on this one just make sense. For instance, we find ourselves saying, “Well, yes, thank you for keeping the bathroom and lunch area clean, while also watching out for ‘careless housekeeping’ overall.”

Then it gets a little strange.

We love how men are instructed to play music “during fatigue periods” to women because, you know, we get more tired than them and we’re guessing they hope the music will help to sooth and keep us calm. Lest we get overtired and cranky. 

1940's women at work memo

“Avoid ‘horseplay’ or ‘kidding’ – she may resent it”

The next part of the memo is for male supervisors to take note.

While some are a little condescending, especially considering many of the women they are now supervising have been doing their job for years while they were away at war, for example, “Make clear her part in the process or product on which she works.” Others like, “See that her working set-up is comfortable, safe and convenient” are no brainers.

But our favourite is the one about “horseplay” and “kidding around” and how women won’t appreciate it – which can probably be translated into avoiding toxic masculinity behaviour, sexual harassment or just being a dick to women – don’t be a dick at work guys! Period.

1940's women in the workplace memo


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“Don’t change her shift too often”

The next part of the memo also has some merit, aside from the general sexist, condescending tone: “Consider her education, work experience and temperament in assigning her to that job.” Yes, consider her temperament, lest she is feisty among her male co-workers.

But we do love that the employer is instructed to consider her home obligations and not to change her shift without notice – because even in 1940, working mums are juggling it all! #supermums.

“Call upon a trained women counsellor”

Because women are so complex and confusing, the guide also suggests workplaces employ a “woman counseller”, just to figure us the hell out. 

BUT if you change it to ‘workplace counsellor’ and also swap ‘women’ for ’employee’ in the points, this idea is actually great! We think every workplace should have a counsellor who is assigned to help discover what workers think, feel and want. 

1940's women in the workplace memo

And always remember guys, women are teachable. Never mind that we’ve been doing the job for years while you’ve been away.  

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