Monday, April 01, 2002

Women in the workplace - then and now

That calculator ad (see below) reminds me of the changes in the workplace over my working life.

My first professional job was as an engineer at a nuclear power plant under construction. It definitely was a man's environment - there were some women, but there weren't many outside the office buildings. About every gangbox had its centerfolds, and although the women weren't abused, most of them hadn't worked in similar environments before. Some men resented them because often they lacked the strength needed to do their work, or otherwise expected special treatment until payday. But the ones who did the job like one of the guys were accepted.

With men in the majority, the women got plenty of attention. Some of the women really liked it - one in particular had an interesting habit. At lunchtime she'd take her bra off, put on a tight T shirt, turn on the high beams, then sashay down a breezeway where she knew there's always be a bunch of hard hats eating lunch.

But political correctness started creeping in. The centerfolds came down, more women were hired, and more accomodations were made for their lesser strength and differing expectations. Next thing you know there's a hair trigger for sexual harassment, and a buddy of mine who called strippers "Ma'am" wound up losing his job over he said-she said allegations.

Were the changes improvements? In some ways. But if women truly were a man's equal for these tasks as was claimed, then why were changes necessary?

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