Women Who Work Often Women Who Swear

By Jeff Rowe 1995, Orange County Register | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 12, 1995 | Go to article overview

Women Who Work Often Women Who Swear


Jeff Rowe 1995, Orange County Register, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Casual profanity has come to the office and from an unlikely source - women.

No one figured it would evolve this way, especially as women began to surge into the work force in the 1970s. Men would have to clean up their raunchy language, the conventional wisdom dictated, in deference to the women.

It hasn't worked that way.

Instead, women in the workplace can blister the paint with the gusto of a stevedore in a tavern. It's an American transition that suggests the social and cultural norms of the workplace are still largely set by men despite the legions of women who have entered the work force in the past three decades.

Women who spike their workplace talk with profanity "want to be one of the boys," says Judy Rosener, a management professor at the University of California, Irvine, and expert in women's workplace issues.

The movement of women into the previously male-dominated workplace has been so swift that many are still insecure and tend to be what Rosener calls "colluders," adapting the dress, actions and speech of males.

"You act like them," she says. "They set the rules, they set the values."

It's insecurity, agrees Julie Newcomb Hill, president and chief executive of Costain Homes Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif. She recalls the 1970s, when women began surging into the work force - wearing female versions of men's suits.

Now women can be feminine, she says, and as they reach executive chairs, they have enough power to impose a company culture that strongly frowns on profanity.

To be sure, some companies run by men have strictures that make the casual use of profanity a cultural sin.

"Culturally, it's not tolerated within the company," says Jeff D'Eliscu, a spokesman for Allergan Inc., the Irvine-based maker of eye and skin-care products.

Yet on assembly floors, offices and loading docks across the land, men and women can be heard deploying R-rated terms in casual conversation.

Marty Mecca says she wasn't offended by the profanity she encountered as supervisor of the service garage at Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, Calif.

"I was not going to be thin-skinned and let it get to me," she said. …

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