By Mrs. Marshall Darrach
“The discovery of the efficiency of the middle-aged woman has been one of the recent joys of the business world,” said Mrs. Robert Armstrong, formerly personnel director of the National City Company in Wall Street, and now personnel secretary of the Eastman Kodak Company at Rochester, New York.
Mrs. Armstrong, when questioned as to the nature of this belated recognition of the merits of the middle-aged woman in business, spoke with enthusiasm and with the voice of authority on this phase of the economic independence of women.
“When do you consider that a woman has reached middle age in the eyes of a businessman?” Mrs. Armstrong smiled. “I know that some men consider a woman elderly at twenty-eight, but the woman under discussion, and who is demonstrating her value in business life, is from forty to fifty. She made her appearance in sufficiently large numbers to permit of a collective scientific study as a war emergency; and what businessmen learned of the sterling qualities of the middle-aged woman when she was fitted into the particular place that had been awaiting her, caused her stock to rise in the employment market.”
“The principal excuse for refusing to employ her was that it was impossible to advance her from one job to another and that it would be bad for the morale of any organization if the women employed were not ambitious enough to warrant promotion. Another cause for objection was found in the belief that the middle-aged woman had neither the health nor the strength to meet the trying demands of business.”
“But the employment of these women during the war showed that both of these theories were wrong. The great bane of the working world is the monotonous job. And every big business organization has many of them. Heretofore, employers have been studying to fit young girls, just beginning their business career, into these places.”
“But to meet the requirements of a monotonous job needs a philosophy that youth does not possess, but which middle age has acquired, and in these positions, we have found the niche in which the woman of forty exactly fits. Misfortune drives many a woman of middle age into a job, and she welcomes rather than resents the monotony of the work that is assigned her. In place of a constantly complaining young girl, who hates her assignment and who is longing constantly to get out of it, we have a contented, efficient woman, who is making an art instead of a mess of filing, and who puts carbons between papers, gets work ready for others, and attends punctiliously to the details of the minor clerical jobs of a monotonous character with the real joy of perfect accomplishment.”
“And how does the question of health compare with that of the younger woman? Can she really stand it as well?”
“There again theory was wrong. The records of attendance for the working year show a smaller percentage of absences from ill health among the older women. They are more careful of their health. They wear more sensible clothes and shoes in unseasonable weather, and they haven’t the same temptation to expose themselves to cold and fatigue in pursuit of pleasure.”
“From the age of forty to fifty, a woman has ten valuable years that are worthy of any employer’s attention. Just in the light of an investment, he can have no such certain guarantee of this length of efficient service from his youthful employees.”
“There are several other points to be considered in the employment of the middle-aged woman in business,” was Miss Armstrong’s next comment. “In the first place, she has no problems. Her job isn’t just an incident in the otherwise complicated unfolding of her life, and which is so mixed up in its development that it takes the concentrated effort of a trained mind, employed for that purpose, to keep her up to the one hundred percent efficiency that her work demands.”
“Then the mere presence of an older woman in an office or a business organization has a highly beneficial effect on the younger girls employed. If she is kindly and sympathetic, as we nearly always find her, she counts as an immense factor for harmony and cheerfulness.”
“The thing that first attracted employers favorably to the middle-aged woman was the trait that she brought into business from her domestic life. This was her horror of waste. The thing that had interested her most in her household, first claimed her attention in the office, and it was the effort to eliminate wasteful expenditure of money, and extravagance in the use of stationery and office supplies, that first served to rivet the attention of her employers upon her.”
“A great many employers,” concluded Mrs. Armstrong, “are readjusting to the new order of things, with the slogan, In our business, the static jobs shall be for the middle-aged and the dynamic jobs for the young.”