The magazine advertisement below comes from 1971, and it describes what employers back in that era were looking for when they hired a woman. What’s being advertised here is the “Kelly Girl,” the main product of Kelly Services which was and still is one of the nation’s largest temp agencies.
In fact, one report listed Kelly in 2012 as the nation’s second largest employer, behind only Walmart.
So what represented the ideal woman back in the early 1970s, as far as corporate employers were concerned?
She “Never takes a vacation or holiday. Never asks for a raise.” She never gets sick — because if she does, you just lose her and get a new temp. You don’t have to pay her “fringe benefits,” in other words, no health insurance. And most of all she “never fails to please.” Because, again if she does fail — dump her.
The current chief exec of Kelly Services says that the rather blatantly sexist way of describing female employees was simply reflective of prevailing attitudes at that time, when women had not made their way into the workplace on the wide scale that they have today.
At the time, a “job” was seen as something most women did on the side.
“It wasn’t typical to see women working,” Kelly’s Carl Camden told the independent journalism organization ProPublica. “So you had that work often positioned as not real work. The way the media could sell it as sociologically acceptable was making money for Christmas, something you were doing on the side for your family.”
But how much has changed today? We’d like to think that women, and temp workers of either gender for that matter, are not simply seen as disposable products who are simply thrown away at the first sign of any defect.
As of June 2013, the U.S. economy had 2.7 million temps, the highest number ever. Since the recession of 2008, temp employment has grown at 10 times the rate of full-time employment. In 2012, according to ProPublica, one of every 10 workers in a “blue collar” job was a temp.
So what do you think? Take a good look at this four-decade old ad and decide for yourself how much has changed.