Capitalist Family Values: Gender, Work, and Corporate Culture at Boeing

Capitalist Family Values: Gender, Work, and Corporate Culture at Boeing

Capitalist Family Values: Gender, Work, and Corporate Culture at Boeing

Capitalist Family Values: Gender, Work, and Corporate Culture at Boeing

Synopsis

Though best known for aircraft and aerospace technology, Boeing has invested significant time and money in the construction and promotion of its corporate culture. Boeing's leaders, in keeping with the standard of traditional American social norms, began to promote a workplace culture of a white, heterosexual family model in the 1930s in an attempt to provide a sense of stability for their labor force during a series of enormous political, social, and economic disruptions. For both managers and workers, the construction of a masculine culture solved problems that technological innovation and profit could not. For managers it offered a way to govern employees and check the power of unions. For male employees, it offered a sense of stability that higher wages and the uncertainties of the airline market could not. For scholar Polly Reed Myers, Boeing's corporate culture offers a case study for understanding how labor and the workplace have evolved over the course of the twentieth century and into the present day amid the rise of neoliberal capitalism, globalization, and women's rights. Capitalist Family Values places the stories of Boeing's women at the center of the company's history, illuminating the policy shifts and economic changes, global events and modern controversies that have defined policy and workplace culture at Boeing. Using archival documents that include company newspapers, interviews, and historic court cases, Capitalist Family Values illustrates the changing concepts of corporate culture and the rhetoric of a "workplace family" in connection with economic, political, and social changes, providing insight into the operations of one of America's most powerful and influential firms.

Excerpt

This book began with a single box at the Boeing Historical Archives that was marked “Women at Boeing.” In 2000 I had the truly wonderful opportunity to work for a year as an intern at the Boeing Historical Archives. Most visitors to the archives wanted to know about technology and airplane parts, but I was intrigued by the social and cultural history contained in that box, tucked away in other areas of the archives, and embedded in Boeing’s history. At the time of my internship, my knowledge of women’s employment at Boeing was limited to some rudimentary ideas about Rosie the Riveter, derived mostly from the popular poster and its attendant story. I assumed women had flocked to Boeing during World War II, had patriotically done their duty, and then retreated back to the home. But, as I read through the newspaper articles, company meeting minutes, and oral history interviews contained in the “Women at Boeing” box, this story became more complicated. I found that women had not simply retreated to the home at the war’s end, and, rather than serving as a “stop-gap” labor force, women were integral to developments and shifts in company culture during and long after World War II. Yet, as the “Women at Boeing” box revealed, women’s stories were not widely or deeply known or fully integrated into the company history contained in the thousands of other archival documents that have preserved company history. I wanted to know more about women’s work lives at Boeing. What did it mean to be a woman at Boeing, a company known for male expertise and technology? This book is the rather unexpected result of my effort to answer that question.

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