Polly Reed Myers: Capitalist Family Values: Gender, Work, and Corporate Culture at Boeing.

AuthorFisher, Duncan
PositionBook review

Polly Reed Myers

Capitalist Family Values: Gender, Work, and Corporate Culture at Boeing, Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2015; xix + 262 pp.: ISBN 9780803278691, 38 [pounds sterling] (hbk)

Challenges to the inadequate recognition of women's (role in) history are much in evidence in contemporary public and literary life. From the successful campaign to have Jane Austen's portrait on the new UK 10 [pounds sterling] note to the publication of books such as Jenni Murray's History of Britain in 21 Women, history as the preserve of white men is, to use an appropriate phrase, a thing of the past. Drawing on research undertaken during a yearlong internship at the Boeing Historical Archives, Polly Reed Myers contributes to redressing this balance through her examination of the question: 'What did it mean to be a woman at Boeing, a company known for male expertise and technology?' (p. xi).

Myers situates her study within debates about women and the history of work, and the history of work and its organisation in a more general sense. A key aspect is consideration of the manifestations of gender within workplace and corporate culture. This is done through scrutinising how company communications, rules, and regulations, interact with--and are moulded by--gendered norms and constructs to structure men and women's respective experiences. This is a study of inequality, and Myers aims to highlight how Boeing's corporate culture has been defined by patriarchal capitalist power.

The book flows chronologically, from the 1930s in chapter 1, through to the present day in chapter 5. In chapter 1, Myers' analysis of the company publication The Boeing News identifies a workplace culture based on fraternal, masculine and heterosexual standards. This was part of Boeing's invocation of the 'family', a flexible metaphor that the company reshaped throughout the 20th century to fit in with its aims and with social and economic change. During the economic crisis of the 1930s, this family metaphor emphasised stability through fraternal and gender solidarity, which led to overt and subtle forms of exclusion of women and racial minority groups. In World War II, this was apparent also, as in the early years of the conflict Boeing followed union rules and did not hire women or African Americans. When this did occur--from 1941 and 1942, respectively--company communications highlighted the supportive and temporary nature of these workers' input. By the...

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