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Men’s and Women’s Jobs
Light Work
Saving Skilled Labor
Plant Changes
Women Workers: Pro and Con
Women Support Families
Government Upholds the Rate for the Job
Unions Uphold the Rate for the Job
Women’s Pay Rates in War Industries
The Rate for the Job
Needs of Industry and Workers

Bulletin No. 196

of the

Women’s Bureau



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.

Vi ' /:>

3 3^-4

Price 10 cents

United States Department



Women’s Bureau,

Washington, October 3, 1942.
It is of the utmost importance to the men leaving
industry for the armed forces, as well as to the women war
workers, that wage standards should be maintained at this time
when large new groups of women are carrying on war industry
I therefore take pleasure in submitting to you a report show­
ing the findings of the Women’s Bureau as to various aspects
of the subject of women’s wage rates.
The recommendations made are based on reports of Women’s
Bureau field agents who have made recent visits to plants
engaged in war production, and on some of the best experience
available in this country and England. The material was
brought together and the report written by Mary Elizabeth
Pidgeon, chief of this Bureau’s Research Division.
Respectfully submitted.
Mary Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,
Secretary of Labor.


Women in industry today are working side by side with men
with similar duties. Many women also are taking over work
formerly done only by men. There is no doubt that such cases
will increase markedly as the war needs for industrial labor
become ever more acute. For this reason it is vital to estab­
lish sound standards for women’s wages. It is important at
this time for the Women’s Bureau again to call attention to its
policy, formulated in 1918 when war production problems
arose that were similar to those of the present, and since then
repeated many times. The Women’s Bureau policy on this
subject, now upheld by many official agencies, is that—
Wage rates for women should he the same as for men, including the
entrance rate.

As women workers are called more fully into war produc­
tion, there are several reasons why it is an essential part of
the efficient conduct of the war to provide adequate wage
standards for these workers, many of them new to industry.
1. To keep up the health and morale of the workers who supply the
sinews of war is as important as to develop the physique of the
soldier. The worker’s wage is the basis of health and morale; it
must be sufficient for support.
2. It is basically unfair to pay one worker a lower wage than another
for substantially the same work.
3. Men leaving to go into the armed forces must be able to feel that
the women who carry on in industry are not being forced to under­
cut established wage standards.
4. It is sometimes argued that men’s wages are higher because they
support families. But today a large percent of the employed
women also support dependents. This will be increasingly the
case during the war (even with the family allotment). Moreover,
young men without families are not paid a lower wage because of
having no dependents.
5. Every effort must be made now to prevent a disastrous slump after
the war. Keeping up the industrial wage standards during the
rapid entrance of new women workers is one important block that
must be laid now toward building the post-war structure.


Men’s and Women’s Jobs
Today both men and women are working on jobs similar
to those women always have done in peacetime; both men and
women are working on jobs formerly done almost altogether
by men; both men and women are working on jobs that,
through the traditions of World War I and of arsenal employ­
ment then and today, might be considered women’s; men are
working on jobs in one plant that women are doing in a plant
having similar production; men and women are working side
by side on the same work in the same plant.1
The great majority oj occupations and the industrial processes of today
are in no wise exclusively men’s or women’s.

As far back as 1930, women were found in all but 30 of the
534 occupations classified in the census. More recently,
newer types of work have appeared on the horizon, and women
have been employed in many jobs not before done by them.
A recent survey by the United States Employment Service
found that women could perform 80 percent of more than
1,800 processes in key war industries.
Sometimes, but by no means in all cases, plant changes are
made when women are put on processes they have not before
performed in the plant. Such changes are no greater in extent
than those that progressive industry constantly makes for a
variety of reasons in order to keep abreast of invention or
newly devised work methods. These improvements cannot
properly be charged against the workers.
The employer makes the capital outlay on changes in process
in order to facilitate production, to market a newly needed
product, to effect some saving, and so forth. He introduces
women for similar reasons, and thus makes use of an available
labor supply in a time of need. Data on women’s output
(given a few pages farther on) show that in the end he gains
thereby. Changes made for this purpose are a matter of en­
gineering efficiency, and in no wise an expense to be borne
by the women workers.
1 See, for example, jobs women are doing in aircraft, ammunition, and instrument
plants, described in Women’s Bureau bulletins 189-1 to 4, and 192-1 and 2. Formerly,
men and women rarely were found doing exactly the same thing 'in just the same way,
but this is much less true in the present. Women now are found in new jobs doing all
parts of the process, as for example setting up their own machines and so forth.


Light Work
It is common to hear it stated that women in industry are
doing “light work” or the “light repetitive” rather than the
“heavier” jobs. The lightness of an operation does not indi­
cate the degree of skill it requires, and does not form any ade­
quate basis for wage determination.
A "light” job often represents a high order of skill, exacts a large share
of the worker’s energy, and is of great importance to the product. Accord­
ingly, the wage rates should be high enough to fit these characteristics
of the job.

Such work frequently requires a delicate and careful touch,
manual dexterity, rapid machine operation, quickness of hand
and brain. Examples of jobs that might be classed as “light
work,” though they require a high degree of skill, are the as­
sembling of the fine parts of aircraft or ship instruments, or of a
time fuze; the screwing together in proper arrangement of
different small parts of ammunition for artillery pieces; the
final inspection of small aircraft parts as fast as they are turned
out; the assembly of an electrical system for an aircraft instru­
ment board, or of the entire instrument board; the operation
of a press stamping out small metal parts; or of a drill making
fine holes at exactly the proper places in small metal parts.
(Women are found changing and sharpening their own drills
where it is customary for the drill operator to do this.)
Obviously these so-called “light” operations require a
greater degree of skill than that of the moveman or the material
handler who lifts heavy weights or heavy boxes or carries
heavy lots of work.
A “light” machine requiring great speed of operation or the
accomplishment of a quick monotonous process may be far
more exacting, actually may use up far more of the performer’s
physical energy, than work requiring chiefly muscle or brawn
and entailing but little dexterity or judgment. It may be far
more important to the product than some of the heavier jobs,
and may be worth a better wage. Repetitive jobs call for a
large degree of concentration or continuous application, and
if they involve following the machine, failure in concentration
may mean physical disaster to the worker as well as ruin to
the product.


The Saving of Skilled Labor
The process performed by the worker is not the less skilled
in character because a helper or a machine does any heavy
lifting involved, nor is it in fact less skilled than the operation
of a heavier machine on which other requirements are no more
exacting. On the heavier as well as on the lighter machine,
whether operated by men or by women, the addition of lifts or
of a helper for several operators often has been found to effect
a saving.
Heavy lifting or carrying notv is more and more done by machine
power, and the introduction of mechanical lifting and handling devices
is not in itself a basis for lowering wage rates.

Industry of today more and more eliminates the use of human
beings to provide the heavy manual labor. Instead it employs
human capacity in skillful manipulative processes, and jobs
requiring a high degree of dexterity. One of the most impor­
tant values of the machine age is that it can free human beings
from exhausting physical burdens. Examples of practical
methods used by engineers to reduce human lifting follow:
In an aircraft plant, suspending an air-operated wrench from a counter­
balanced support had eliminated the necessity for lifting and handling.
A woman replacing a man in the use of the wrench was able to operate
two such counter-balanced air-driven wrenches simultaneously instead
of the one formerly operated by the male employee.
In a machine-tool plant multiple spindles were attached to milling
machines, making it possible for a girl to operate four machines with
fewer steps from one to another.

The proper conservation of labor is a factor vital to the
whole organization of production, to employer as well as
worker, and to the Nation’s very life. When the need for
output is great, skilled work and skilled workers must be used
to the best advantage.
It is no economy of labor to employ the brute strength of
human beings for heavy jobs; they can be done by machinery
and thus release human labor for processes of greater skill,
delicacy, or dexterity, such as exist widely in industry today.
Much of the effort to train new workers and to upgrade work­
ers is based on the principle that it is no economy of labor to
employ on an unskilled job a worker capable of developing


greater skill. It is in line with this policy to use machinery
wherever possible for the heavier lifting or carrying, and
this especially can be done on new jobs and in new plants.
Furthermore, it sometimes has been found to be economy
of management to provide a set-up man for a group of
machines, whether operated by men or by women. But there
are cases where this is done for men as well as women, and in
an increasing number of instances the woman operator sets
up her own machine just as the man does.
Women’s Output on the Job Compares Well With Men’s
One of the first questions the employer wants answered
when he considers women’s wage rates relates to their output
and the efficiency of their work. There is a considerable
body of evidence that the industrial efficiency and the output
of women are as satisfactory as those of men, in some cases
more so. Especially is this true where the individual is prop­
erly suited to the job and the conditions of work are adequate.
In particular, women are found more proficient than men
on certain operations that require care in measurement,
fine handling, or light skilled work. Women compare
favorably with men, too, in learning time, in some cases learn­
ing more rapidly; considering women’s inexperience in
mechanical training, this is an especially good record.
In packing and inspecting link belts used for feeding ammunition into
machine guns, women’s output in a Government arsenal was reported
to be 40 percent greater than men’s.
More mechanical time fuzes are being produced per employee than
ever before in a Government arsenal where 96 percent of the employees
at work on them are women, though a few years ago only 2 percent
were women. Some part but by no means all of this can be referred
to changes in the process, but the foreman felt strongly that women’s
production on these tiny parts was far superior to men’s.
Other processes in Government arsenals in which women in some
instances have been found to produce more than men are in the opera­
tion of internal grinding machines formerly operated only by the most
skilled men, and on several types of machining operations in the
manufacture of rifles.
Women learned faster and did more careful work than men in in­
specting operations in the manufacture of cutters for gear shapers,


which involved careful measurements by the use of optical compara­
tors, laboratory microscopes, circular pitch machines, cone machines,
and other special measuring devices.
A woman operating a sensitive drill in an aircraft plant had main­
tained a record of double the output of the man formerly on the job.
In machine-tool plants, women who had been employed only a short
time were reported doing well in production on milling machines,
drill presses, gear hobbers, grinding machines, and inspection. In one
case a woman’s work exceeded that of most other workers, including
men, in grinding broaches for barrel-rifling machines, setting up her
own work, and grinding to almost inconceivably fine tolerances.
A girl spot welder in an airplane plant had more than doubled the
previous records of boys on the same job.
"'Women doing acetylene gas welding on stainless steel manifolds for
aircraft engines had passed Army-Navy weld tests two to one better
than men on this operation, which is light but very skilled work—in
fact it is one of the most difficult types of welding.
Recent surveys of California firms employing significant numbers of
women in different industries found that in all cases there was an
increase in production per hour, and a lowering of cost per unit,
particularly where women were employed at the same wage and on
the same jobs as men.
The management of major metal plants on war production of parts
recently stated to a Women’s Bureau agent that women meet the
schedule well, in some instances better than men, and often produce
more than men. This is verified by occasional time-study checks.
In aircraft manufacture a drilling operation required that a very small
hole be drilled in small metal pieces. A man on the job drilled 650
holes a day; when a girl was put on she kept up a record of 1,000 holes
a day.
In aircraft plants: On jobs in the woodwork shop, girls were working
as fast or faster than men; in the tubing department output increased
more than the proportion of women added; a 2-year plant record of
men had been broken a few weeks after women were put on such work
as inspection, machine-shop operations, precision assembly, sheet-metal
work, tail and wing assembly, shearing, trim-shop work, and other
Certain of the studies made during World War I give outstanding
evidence that women’s output takes its place satisfactorily with that
of men. For example, of 267 metal-working firms reporting on the
substitution of more than 13,000 women for men in 14 occupations,
the proportions stating that women’s output was equal to or greater


than men’s ranged from 56.8 percent of the firms reporting on grinding
and polishing to 84.6 percent of those reporting on welding.
In another of the World War I studies reporting many women in
Cleveland, Ohio, employed in plants and on processes to which they
were not accustomed, the output of women and girls was found to be
greater than that of men and boys by 64 percent of the production
managers reporting for the metal industries and 20 percent of those
reporting for the clothing industries. In a study of women employed
in the metal trades, made at about the same time by the National
Industrial Conference Board, two-thirds of the employers reporting on
production stated that women’s output was equal to or greater than that
of men.
In a study of the replacement of men by women in New York State
industries during World War I, made by the Department of Labor of
that State, it was found that even in cases where the women produced
more than the men they received lower wages than the men doing the
same work in the same plant.

Output Depends Partly on Short Hours.

One of the primary requirements for maintaining output
is hours so short that the worker does not become over­
fatigued and thereby unable to keep up production. The
fine processes and the dexterous hand work often done by
women appear to be just the types of occupation that lend
themselves best to the maintenance of an even production
schedule throughout the day, provided daily and weekly hours
are sufficiently short and rest periods are arranged suitably to
fit the needs of the job.
There is well-established evidence, based on scientific experi­
ments and long factory experience, and illustrated by a multi­
tude of instances, showing.That^production falls if daily or
weekly hours are too long. The experience of the present war
repeats and augments this evidence. A recent report of the
British Industrial Health Research Board states that the long
hours of June and July 1940, plus the extra effort made by
the workers, usually were detrimental to sustained productive
Women on capstan lathes in World War I increased their output 13
percent where work hours were shortened about 13 percent.
Study of the iron and steel industry in the United States made by the
Bureau'of Labor Statistics considered the 10- and 12-hour day in 1922,



when production of a ton of pig iron required 3,270 man-hours. Daily
hours were reduced to 8 in 1923, and in 1924 the ton of pig iron was
produced in 2,662 man-hours. Thus the shortened hours caused a re­
duction of nearly one-fifth in man-hours required for the job. In
this interval no mechanical improvement of any importance was
In comparing an 8-hour and a 10-hour metal-working plant, the
United States Public Health Service found the shorter hours enabled
production to be better maintained throughout the day; output could
be kept up through the day best on dexterous hand work.
Records of a major electrical company over a 5-year period show that
output increased, especially on repetitive monotonous work, where
proper rest pauses were introduced. The increase was greater if food
also could be had.
An investigation by a committee of the Federated American Engineer­
ing Societies of continuous-process industries that had changed from a
12-hour to an 8-hour day reported no technical difficulties, and a
production increase of 25 percent or more in some plants in practically
every major continuous-process industry, accompanied by marked
decrease in absenteeism and labor turn-over.
The United States Government Printing Office, after changing to a
5-day week (40 hours) in 1932, reported that the production per
worker had increased by from 4 to 10 percent.

The Employer’s Adjustment to a Woman Labor Force
Employers sometimes object to the “equal pay” principle
because of adjustments found to be necessary when they take
on women. It is claimed that these may involve changes in
plant or in order of work, added supervision, or consideration
of labor laws applying to women’s work.
Changes in Plant or Order of Work.

It is often true that the changes referred to are only minor
and inexpensive, and in such cases they cannot be used as a
reason for lower pay to women.
The division of jobs into their elements is a process that has
been going on a long time. It may be hastened by this or that
economic change (in the present case by the pressure for war
production) but it continues regardless of the worker’s sex.
Where changes in machines or in routing of work require a
considerable outlay, in more cases than not these changes are


no more extensive than a progressive and far-sighted manu­
facturer would make in order to improve the efficiency of the
plant under new conditions, especially where large numbers of
workers, whether men or women, are being added.2 fn the
end this process will represent economy through more effective
plant organization. These improvements should not be at the
expense of the woman worker.
Where added locker or toilet rooms or enlarged eating facili­
ties must be provided, these are necessary in any case because
of the expansion in the labor force, fn the end they advance
the health and efficiency of the workers and so contribute to
the efficiency of the plant.

The additional supervision that it may be necessary to pro­
vide where women workers are newly employed is no more than
would be required by any large group of new workers, ft may
be considered, therefore, one of the necessities required by the
increased production due to the war, and not specifically be­
cause women are being hired. Field agents of the Women’s
Bureau report that supervisors having no experience with
women workers sometimes fear difficulties that in fact never
arise, and often they become most enthusiastic about their
woman labor force.
A primary requirement for supervision of women is that it
always should be done by persons who have no vestige of
prejudice against women workers. Faulty supervision in any
case retards production. The selection of supervisors should be
primarily for their capacity to deal with people as well as their
knowledge of the processes, ft has been found that early
difficulties in the supervision of a new labor force tend to
disappear entirely in a few weeks as the jobs and the work pro­
gram are more clearly defined and the workers become better
Managements can save themselves much trouble in the end
by consulting at the very outset those who have experience
with the problems they themselves are newly facing. From
the beginning the best known policies should be followed. A
\See also p. 22.


large aircraft firm claimed to have disciplinary trouble with
women. Analysis showed that their placement policies and
their work organization had not been sufficiently well planned
in advance. Meanwhile, other such firms were employing
women with marked success.
Adjustment to Labor Laws.

On the whole, the work standards required by law are such
as experience has proved will best aid maximum output as
well as workers’ health. A statement made early in 1942 by
the Navy, War, and Labor Departments called sound stand­
ards “mechanisms of efficiency.”
In this connection labor laws are a distinct aid to the em­
ployer; they protect him against unknowingly employing his
labor force in such a way as to decrease its value to him.
Many an employer in the great industrial States has at first
thought it a great hardship to comply with some labor law,
but after he has so organized his work as to observe the law
he has found added efficiency and has thanked the enforcing
Where the employer could not adjust his work so as to com­
ply with labor law without interfering with urgent production
needs in an emergency, he has been able in almost all cases to
obtain modification suited to his immediate requirements but
so controlled that it will not in the long run handicap his
workers’ health and efficiency.
Work Characteristics Attributed to the Woman Worker
One set of objections to the “equal pay” principle has to
do with certain characteristics that have been attributed to the
woman as a worker. Some employers claim that women are
less desirable employees than men because of less physical
strength, greater absenteeism, a shorter working life and higher
labor turn-over, a proneness to accident. Excepting only the
first mentioned, these largely have to do with regularity on the
j ob.
Available data on some of these subjects are not sufficient
to make possible a complete answer of “yes” or “no” to all
such objections. However, it must at the outset be noted that


in their employment women have been subject to all the dis­
advantages of a group of workers relatively new and used
largely as a fill-in or marginal labor supply.
Women as a group too often have entered the world of indus­
try with a handicap in no wise due to lack of capacity on their
part. To a large extent this can be overcome by better indus­
trial planning, and greater regularity of work can be secured
by providing more satisfactory working conditions.
Women for the most part have not had opportunity to be­
come so well established in industry as men. For example,
in the past their training often has not been specifically
devoted to their new tasks and they have not even been ad­
mitted to training in certain of the more skilled and betterpaid trades; their employment has been to a large extent in
irregular and low-paid industries, and thus their economic
status often has been such as to undermine their health.
Physical Strength.

An increasing proportion of the jobs in industry today
require dexterous hand work and skilled, intelligent manipu­
lation, rather than heavy muscular force. They can be done
well by the less powerful workers. They are the types of job
for which women are chiefly employed, and there is no reason
for reducing the wage rate for this skilled work merely be­
cause a woman is found to have only a little over half the
physical strength of a man.3 The answer to the production
problem in such cases is the provision of proper conditions
of work such as suitable height or adjustment of machines,
adequate seating, regulation of speed so that it is not excessive
for the worker’s physique, satisfactory arrangement of rest
pauses, and other mechanisms of good management designed
to prevent excessive fatigue and maintain output.

There seems little doubt that women are absent from work
because of illness somewhat more often than men. However,
the reasons for this lie to a considerable extent in industrial conditions
3 Women also have been found doing severe muscular work in a good many cases.
See Women’s Bureau Special Bui. 2, pp. 2-3.


that can be improved. For example, in a major aircraft plant
where conditions of work are good it is found that even under
the wartime pressures absences are no more for women than
men—less than 3 percent. Similarly, in a company that
employs hundreds of women producing precision aircraft
instruments average absenteeism recently was found to be less
than 1 percent.
In somewhat the same way as an improved machine or
a readjusted method of handling a work process may require
considerable adaptation in spacing, arrangement of tools and
materials, or other plant conditions, it is clear that certain
conditions of work must be considerably better adapted to the
needs of women workers if the large supply of woman labor
necessary for war production is to be secured.
A survey in 1935-36 by the National Institute of Health showed that
27.7 in every 1,000 women workers 15 to 64 years old visited, com­
pared to 22 per 1,000 men, were ill on the day of the canvass.
In 1940, the Public Health Service reports, 101 out of every 1,000
women industrial workers, but only 65 out of every 1,000 men, had
an illness of 15 days or longer.
A Public Health Service report on a large public-utility company '
shows absences of one day or longer due to sickness and accidents
averaging per year 900 for every 1,000 men and 1,820 for every 1,000
women. (This also may indicate a higher turn-over of women.)

So far as industrial injuries are concerned, these are more
severe for men than for women; but the total of time lost in
the year because of illness is greater per 1,000 women than
per 1,000 men.
The Public Health Service report referred to above shows that in a
year’s time the woman worker loses an average of 10.9 days, the man
an average of 7.5 days, because of illness or injury.
Records from the same public-utility company for an earlier period
showed the average annual days of disability per person on the pay roll
were 6.5 for men and 13.1 for women.

There is little difference between men and women workers
in the number of nonindustrial injuries suffered in the year.
For the years 1935-39, the Public Health Service reports 11 cases of
nonindustrial injuries in every 1,000 women industrial workers, and
13 cases in every 1,000 men.


There is a large body of experience to show how absenteeism
is greatly reduced by measures that prevent excessive fatigue,
such as shortened hours, rest pauses on exacting work, guarding
against too great a speed-up, and so forth. Fatigue not only
predisposes the worker to illness but causes greater proneness
to accident, and in both these ways absenteeism is increased.
The following examples indicate that absenteeism can be
reduced markedly by a shortening of work hours and by
planned rest pauses. Plant facilities for a hot nutritious meal
also help to alleviate fatigue and maintain health, and thus to
reduce absenteeism.
In a Women’s Bureau study of lost time in cotton mills, the proportion
of time lost by women was twice as great in 55-hour mills as in those
with a 48-hour schedule.
Reduction of hours to 8 a day markedly reduced absenteeism in plants
surveyed by the Federated American Engineering Societies after
World War I.
An Indiana plant that kept careful records of absenteeism showed
that girls who worked long overtime were so fatigued that more hours
were lost through absenteeism than were added by overtime.
Records reported for a cotton plant show a reduction in sickness
after the introducing of rest periods in forenoon and afternoon.
British experience found twice as much time lost by men and women
who worked long hours as by those with shorter hours. In three
shell factories, after the week was shortened to 44 hours lost time from
sickness was reduced. After the change men lost no time, women
3 percent of their time, though formerly both had lost about 6 percent
or more.
Proneness to accident was found in a British munitions plant to
be two and one-half times as frequent in a 12-hour day as in a 10hour day. No doubt further reduction of hours would reduce accidents
still more than this.

British experience in the present war has been marked by
the serious problem of absenteeism, in some industries as high
as 20 or 25 percent. Contributing to this condition were the
excessive work hours (since shortened), the influenza epidemic
reaching its peak in the winter of 1940, and the disruption
of transportation and other living facilities by air raids.
In British factories where both men and women were
employed, women lost on the average about twice as much


time as men. However, a major munitions firm reported
that certified illness had increased for men but not for women.
(Younger men were called to the armed forces, and the men
remaining were older or “of low medical grade.”) Where
the 5-day week formerly had been the custom, Saturday
absences constituted nearly half of all in the week (for both
men and women).
An important cause of absenteeism among women, besides
illness, is in their household duties. This is a factor that will
have to be met by adjustments in industry, as long as women
workers are expected also to give service to their families or to
perform personal services for themselves that are not expected
of working men.
In England, where need for woman labor is acute, measures
taken by industry to meet this situation include arrangement of
shifts so that women will have time to buy and prepare food
for their families, arranging that women’s leave time can be
granted when their men are on leave from the armies, and
the organization of some industries so as to use considerable
part-time work.
A major British munitions firm has reported that absence due to illness
among part-time women employees is only 1.8 percent, though it runs
to 3.3 among married women who are on full-time work.

Labor Turn-over.

Women have, in the past, been thought of as presenting a
greater problem of labor turn-over than men. However, in a
war economy, employment of women is the solution of a serious
labor-turn-over problem caused by withdrawal of men for
the armed forces. There are many other instances, too, show­
ing women comparing favorably with men in sticking to the
job; in fact, some firms prefer women because of their greater
attachment to home and family ties and their consequent
greater likelihood of remaining in the locality at work. As in
the case of absenteeism, industry can be so organized as to
reduce turn-over considerably.
More and more do women expect to remain in employment
throughout a normal working life. As their numbers in em­
ployment have shown a marked increase in every census


period, so they are remaining longer in the working world.
Women’s Bureau evidence shows that many women remain for
long years in their trades, imparting a large degree of per­
manency to their job-holding.
Though larger proportions of working women than of working men
are in the younger groups, yet the Census of 1940 showed over 40 percent
of the women in the labor force to be 35 years of age or older.
An earlier survey of the Women’s Bureau, including over 35,000 of the
better-paid women in manufacturing in 11 States, showed that almost
18 percent of these had been in industry for 10 years or more.
A study of 45 plants in various industries during World War I showed
turn-over rates considerably lower for women than for men. How­
ever, the wartime conditions influenced this—the leaving of men for
the armed forces, the influx of women into industry (1917-18).

Women Support Families Too !
An excuse sometimes given for not paying women the rate
for the job is that men have to support dependents. But
today this often is just as true of women. Their responsibility
in this respect will be increased as more and more men go into
the armed forces.
For example, in 10 studies on this subject nearly 13 percent
of the more than 369,000 women reported were the sole support
of families of two or more persons. In 34 studies reporting
more than 155,000 women, and including both the married
and the single, practically 60 percent contributed to the
support of dependents.
As far back as 1930, census data for representative industrial
cities showed that more than a tenth of the employed women
were entirely responsible for the support of their families.
More recently, a Women’s Bureau investigation in two widely
diverse localities showed that women’s earnings constituted
the entire support of well over a third of the families of two or
more persons.
One never hears the argument advanced that a young un­
married man should be paid a reduced wage because of his
status, though usually he assumes less financial responsibility
for the home than does his sister. In fact, the principle of the
“family wage” has never existed in this country as a basis for
489319—42---- -2


wage payment. Here the wage is paid for the job done and
not according to number of dependents.
Government Policy Has Long Upheld the Rate for
The principle of the rate for the job, regardless of the worker’s
sex, has been advocated officially or ordered put into effect by
nearly a score of the agencies of the Federal Government over
more than 40 years.
The Woman in Industry Service in the United States De­
partment of Labor, organized in 1918, and later the Women’s
Bureau of the same agency, created in 1920, has upheld the
principle as follows:
Wages should he established on the basis of occupation and not on the
basis of sex.

The National War Labor Board has held to the “equal pay”
principle. In the case of the Remington Rand typewriter
company, the Board held the low rates paid women to be so
unequal as to require a raise, though no other rates were
ordered advanced. The Board established the principle of
“equal pay” as a definite policy in two important opinions
rendered in September 1942—one in the General Motors cases
and the other in the Brown and Sharpe case.4 Both in these
and in another case in the preceding month, the Board directed
that an “equal pay” clause be included in the union agreement.
It should be noted especially that in these cases the Board
has gone further than merely to uphold the equal-pay princi­
ple in cases where women are replacing men. It holds that
comparable work should be paid the same rate regardless of re­
placement. The Board warned that slight or inconsequential
changes in the job do not constitute sufficient reason for a
wage differential against women; and that the physical de­
mands of the job are not the sole standard for fixing the wage.
Quite recently, the War Production Board, the Army, the
Navy, and the Department of Labor advocated that: “Wage
rates for women should be the same as for men, including the
entrance rate.” At the same time they stated that, “Sound
< See p. 24 for the text as to the Board’s decision on this subject.


labor standards, which over any protracted period are essential
to the maintenance of production, * * * are the mechan­
isms of efficiency.”
The Michigan legal requirement that where women do the
same work as men they shall receive the same pay rate recently
has been upheld in the courts. In this case, back wages were
ordered restored to women who were paid only 76 cents an
hour while men on similar work received 97 cents.6
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 specifies certain basic
minimum rates with no distinction by sex; in one section of the
Act machinery is created to fix higher minimum rates than
the basic minimum, and here is stated—“no classification shall
be made under this section on the basis of age or sex.”
Under the National Recovery Administration and its fore­
runner, the President’s Reemployment Agreement, the pay­
ment of a lower wage to women than to men was held to
be a practice leading to unfair competition in industry. The
N. R. A. announced the policy that “Female employees per­
forming substantially the same work as male employees shall
receive the same rate of pay as male employees.”
In 1915, the Commission on Industrial Relations, created
by Congress to inquire “into the effect of industrial conditions
on public welfare,” recommended that both public opinion
and legislation recognize “the principle that women should
receive the same compensation as men for the same service.”
The much earlier Industrial Commission, created in 1898,
expressed itself strongly on the principle of “equal pay for
equal work.”
During World War I, with the necessary rapid entry of
women into war industries, the Chief of the Bureau of Ord­
nance of the War Department issued (November 1917), to
arsenal commanders and all manufacturers filling war con­
tracts, General Orders 13, providing among other things that:
The standards of wages hitherto prevailing for men in the process should
not be lowered when women render equivalent service.

This principle was taken as a guide by the Women in Indus­
try Department of the Woman’s Committee of the U. S.5
5 General Motors Corporation v. Read et al. (1940), 294 Mich. 558; 293 N. W#751.


Council of National Defense. There also was a Women in
Industry Committee of the Advisory Commission of the Coun­
cil of National Defense, which advocated the same policy, as
Whenever women are employed for work customarily done by men,
they shall be paid the same rates as are paid the men. If processes
are not identical, an adjustment of wages should be made according
to the skill and output of the workers. But in no case shall the wage
scale for any department or process be reduced for no other reason
than that women are replacing men.

In its report of March 1918, the War Labor Conference Board
(appointed by the Secretary of Labor on recommendation of
an advisory council) recommended the creation of a National
War Labor Board to handle industrial disputes, and formulated
the principles to be applied, which included the following:
If it shall become necessary to employ women on work ordinarily
performed by men, they must be allowed equal pay for equal work and
must not be allotted tasks disproportionate to their strength.

The National War Labor Board applied this principle in more
than 50 of the cases that came before it. The largest numbers of
these had to do with work on street railways and in steel,
machinery, or metal plants, but the cases also included other
industries—chemical, electrical, paper, food, laundry.
This principle also was adopted by the War Labor Policies
Board, of 1918, an administrative body within the Department
of Labor created to correlate its work with other departments
in the Government. In December 1918, the United States
Railroad Administration made the following rule, restating it
in slightly different terms in the General Order of May: “The
pay for female employees, for the same class of work, shall be
the same as that of men, and their working conditions must be
healthful and fitted to their needs. The laws enacted for the
government of their employment must be observed.” In
November 1919, the U. S. Civil Service Commission definitely
ruled that all examinations were open to men and women alike.


“Equal Pay” in Union Agreements
In union negotiations, clauses now frequently include agree­
ments to the principle of equal pay for women’s work.6 In fact,
at the National Industrial Conference called by the President
after World War I, Mr. Samuel Gompers, chairman of the
labor group, stated this principle as one of the “fundamental
propositions” having “unanimous approval of the labor group,
including the representatives of the railroad brotherhoods.”
In the past, however, unions often have failed to realize how
important this is in maintaining wage standards at a time when
women must supply an increasing part of industrial labor.
Though many instances of local contracts could be given, the
following may be taken as typical.
The principle is stated in agreements both with A. F. L.
and C. I. O. unions in major aircraft plants, sometimes both
unions having agreements in the same plant, and both stating
this principle. For example, contracts of the International
Association of Machinists with two different aircraft companies
Company 1. Wage rates shall be the same for men and women doing
comparable work.
Company 2. All terms referring to male employees in this agreement
shall also be applicable to female employees. [No differential rates
are set.]

Two of the contracts of the International Union of United
Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of
America with aircraft companies state:
Company 1. Female employees who may be required to perform the
same work as male employees will receive equal pay.
Company 2. There shall be no discrimination in rates of pay for female
employees replacing male employees.

On a Nation-wide scale, the United Electrical, Radio and
Machine Workers of America are including such a clause in
6 In some cases where entrance rates for women formerly have been very far below
those for men, though the contract announces the “equal pay” principle, fully equal
rates cannot always be reached immediately without an interim period merely narrow­
ing the differential. This situation need not occur where women are going into jobs
new to them or new in the plant.


their agreements. Such contracts have now been made with
the major electrical manufacturers and with important auto­
mobile companies. In one of these applying to all the plants
of one of the largest electrical companies, men’s jobs are defined
as those performed by men December 7, 1941, and the
contract states:
Women assigned to such jobs during the war emergency shall receive
keysheet rates of pay equal to those received by men under similar

Another contract of this electrical workers’ union provides:
The company agrees to abide by the principle of equal pay for equal
work for female employees employed on the same operations as men.

The Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway,
and Motor Coach Employees has established and long main­
tained this principle. Recently it was upheld in a strike to
keep up the wage rates for women cleaners for a major country­
wide transportation company.
An agreement of the United Steelworkers of America with
large subsidiaries of United States Steel contained the following:
Women employed to perform work on jobs heretofore performed by
men shall receive the same pay for fully performing the same quantity
and type of work.

The United Rubber Workers of America include such a
clause in their contracts, for example, with plants in Pennsyl­
vania, Ohio, and California. One such contract reads:
The company further agrees to pay equal pay for equal work and all
development work having no temporary or permanent rate established
shall be compensated at a rate not less than employee’s past average
earning for last pay period exclusive of overtime.

Another agreement for rubber workers says:
All employees shall receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of
sex, color, age, or nationality, and shall not be penalized on account
of machine or equipment inequalities. It is understood that in any
case where female labor replaces male labor, the piece-work rate in
effect on that job before the change was made shall be effective.

Some unions that formerly have not included women in their
membership have now admitted them, since many more
women have come into the industry. An example is the Inter­


national Association of Machinists, whose locals opened their
doors to women in 1941. Many of these women were bench
workers and operators of foot or power presses.
Women’s Pay Rates in War Industries
Expanding aircraft manufacture is the wonderfully pub­
licized industry of today. Most plants are new; almost
uniformly excellent work conditions are planned and built
into the plants and the organization. Women have been
employed in large numbers for less than a year. As in World
War I, the principle of equal pay for women’s work appears
to be especially well recognized where employment of women
is relatively new.
In visits to all major aircraft plants in the country, agents
of the Women’s Bureau found the same pay scale for women
as for men usually prevailing for workers on first entrance to
aircraft plants. However, there are some exceptions; for
example, in one aircraft plant where rate differentials existed
all along the line a woman instructor was found receiving a
pay rate far below that of the men she was training. Most
aircraft assembly plants have a regular wage advancement
policy for the first months of employment, after which work­
ers are assigned according to the rate for the job. Women’s
work history in aircraft is short—their employment in large
numbers had scarcely begun before December of 1941.
Hence it is too early to be sure as to the rate of their progress
into the more highly paid jobs in the industry.
In most ammunition plants, in contrast to the situation in
aircraft, it was found that women have not been started
at the same rates of pay as men. However, a number of
plants have worked out detailed job classifications and pay the
rate for the job, and a few have a system of automatic pay ad­
vancement. There are many cases in Government arsenals
where women’s rates are far below the standards for men in the
same type of work.
In certain machine-tool plants visited by the Women’s
Bureau entrance rates of women were found to be well below
those of men.


In shipbuilding, women were only beginning to be employed
on production work in the late summer of 1942. In two major
shipbuilding and drydock companies visited by the Women’s
Bureau, these new workers were paid the same beginning
rates as men on the same processes.
The Rate for the Job
A correct or suitable rate for a job can be established only
by an analysis of the specific requirements of the job.7 8 How­
ever, there is not always time or facility to undertake a really
good job evaluation, and one that is not excellent is worse
than none. In the meantime, even without further effort at
defining the job, or the work, much can be done if there is
a sincere effort on the part of management and workers to
carry out the principle of equal pay for women’s work or “the
rate for the job.” The Women’s Bureau recommends the fol­
lowing as a workable basis of pay until a plant can complete
a job analysis.
1. If the job or operation is a new one, the rate should be fixed according
to the job, and regardless oj whether a man or a woman is to per­
form it.
2. If a woman is placed on a job formerly done by a man, or on a type of
job customarily done by a man, she should receive the identical rate
paid the man.
Managements sometimes make slight changes for the purpose of
improving the process, and such changes cannot be taken as a valid
reason for paying a lower wage rate to women? Among the examples
of this would be the raising or lowering of benches or machines to
improve the work lay-out and reduce the lifting weight; the arrange­
ment of work so that the heavy lifting is performed by movemen or
material handlers {laborers}; the placing of an automatic stop on a
machine; the installing of conveyors to slide parts from one machine to
another; the introduction of a lighter arbor or other machine part, or
the changing of a jig orfixture so as to lighten the lifting weight; and
so forth.
7 Without such an analysis no words can define the job in a manner finally satisfactory
for the fixing of rates. Words that have at some time been used in an effort to define
the job have included identical, the same, similar, equal, equivalent, corresponding,
essentially identical, comparable, kindred, essentially similar, substantially or appreciably
the same, similar in all material respects, and so forth.
8 See also p. 9.


Newer Needs of Industry and Workers
Old ideas that still exist as to women’s work are not fitted
to the needs and possibilities of industry today. They are
outmoded and are being discarded more or less rapidly.
Advanced management concentrates its will and exerts its
energy to fit industrial practice to the conditions of work best
suited to the needs of the workers, recognizing this as a basic
factor in securing the fullest output.
The experiences being gained in war-production efforts have
shown that in the future there must be closer fitting of job
requirements to workers’ needs, a fuller attunement of the
entire organization of industry to the requirements of human


Extracts from Decision of National War Labor Board
in the General Motors Cases, September 1942
Wage rates for women shall be set in accordance with the principle of
equal pay for comparable quantity and quality of work ori comparable
Any dispute arising as to the question of quality, quantity, or compara­
bility, as herein defined, shall be subject to final determination by an arbi­
trator appointed by the National War Labor Board; provided, however,
that any such dispute which involves an alleged violation of a local wage
agreement shall be settled within the procedural framework of the grievance
provision in the agreement.
The parties shall include in the new agreement the above provisions and
in their application shall be guided by the Opinion of the Board in this case.

Wage Rates for Female Employees.
The National War Labor Board has accepted the general principle that
wages should be paid to female employees on the principle of equal pay for
equal work. It believes that there should be no discrimination between
employees whose production is substantially the same on comparable jobs.
This is not a new principle. It was enunciated by the War Labor Board
set up in 1917 to deal with industrial problems arising during the first World
War. Our country will depend in this war more and more upon its women
to produce the materials with which its men will fight. In calling upon
American women to play such a vital role on the industrial front, the
country has an obligation to provide the utmost assurance that they will
not be subject to discriminatory treatment in their compensation. Careful
attention must be given to the equitable effectuation of this principle.
The Board has directed the parties to include in their new agreement a
provision that wage rates for women shall be the same as for men where
they do work of comparable quantity and quality in comparable occupa­
tions. The wording of this paragraph in the Directive Order indicates the
impropriety of using slight or inconsequential changes in a job as a reason
for setting up a wage differential against women employees. Wage-setting
on such a basis is not compatible with the principle of equal pay for equal
work. The Board wishes to stress, however, that the definition embodied
in its Directive Order on this issue is not related solely to the physical char­
acteristics of the operation performed. The quality and quantity of pro­
duction must also be considered. Female employees assigned to an opera­


tion which has been or which is performed by men should receive the same
pay when they produce the same quality and quantity of output. Any
differential which results in lower pay to women under such conditions
would be discriminatory. On the other hand, where lower production or
performance standards must be established for women, an adjustment of
wage rates is compatible with equal pay for equal work.
The Board has already, in the case involving Norma-Hoffman Bearings
Corporation and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of
America, CIO, and more recently in the case of the Brown and Sharpe
Manufacturing Company and the International Association of Machinists,
API., taken cognizance of the fact that it is often impossible or inadvisable
for female employees to undertake heavy physical labor which has been es­
tablished as a part of certain jobs when performed by men. In such cases,
the employment of women workers may entail extra supervision, extra
set-up men, or extra carry-off men. As pointed out in the Brown and
Sharpe opinion, extra labor costs can be computed in these circumstances
and can be given pro rata weight in establishing an equitable rate of pay
for the female workers. Such an adjustment of rates is in line with the
equal pay for equal work principle where it is necessary to prevent an in­
crease in unit labor costs. On the other hand, such a division of work and
specialization of tasks may frequently be made without increasing labor
costs even though the female employees continue to receive the established
rate for the operation. In such cases, there is no sound basis for setting a
differential rate against the female employee. Such division of tasks has
often been used on jobs manned by male employees as a means of reducing
unit costs while maintaining hourly rates. There are sound reasons there­
fore for guarding against the use of the procedure to cut women’s rates
under such circumstances.
The previous discussion indicates some of the factors which must be taken
into account in equitably effectuating the principle of “equal pay for equal
work.” This matter cannot be entirely disposed of by any clause, no matter
how carefully it may be worded. The principle of equal pay for equal work
must be worked out in individual situations by parties who cooperate in
good faith to secure the desired objective. Even under such circumstances,
there may be honest differences of opinion. It is in recognition of this
fact that the Board has provided in this case that certain disputes regarding
the rates established for women employees shall be treated as grievances
and handled through the established grievance procedure. In the case in­
volving the U. A. W. such cases are ultimately subject to umpire determina­
tion insofar as they may represent a question of compliance with a local
wage agreement. The Board has further provided in the U. A. W. case
that any dispute as respects rates for female employees which does not
properly fall within the jurisdiction of the umpire, as provided in the agree­
ment between the parties, shall be finally determined by an arbitrator
appointed by the Board.


Women in the Economy of the United States. Women’s Bureau Bui. 155.
1937. See pp. 46-53, 58-60, 63-70, 79-81.

National War Labor Board mimeographs:
Order and Opinion in Brown and Sharpe Case, Sept. 25, 1942.
Order and Opinion in General Motors Cases, Sept. 26, 1942.
Effective Industrial Use of Women in the Defense Program. Women’s
Bureau Special Bui. 1, 1940. See p. 19.
Women’s Employment in Aircraft Assembly, 1942. Women’s Bureau Bui.
192-1. See pp. 16-17.
Women’s Employment in Artillery Ammunition, 1942. Women’s Bureau
Bui. 192-2. See pp. 15-16.

Employed Women Under N. R. A. Codes. Women’s Bureau Bui. 130.
1935. See pp. 2, 20-25, 132, 140-142.
Wages Paid in Ohio Prior and Subsequent to Ohio Minimum Wage.
Women’s Bureau Bui. 145. 1936. See pp. 17-21, 22-29.
The National War Labor Board [World War I]. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bui. 287. December 1921. See pp. 1-10, 69-71.

Hours and Efficiency in British Industry. Max D. Kossoris, in Monthly
Labor Review, June 1941.
Occupational Diseases Among Women. Women’s Bureau Bui. 184. 1941.
See pp. 3, 14, 27.
Hours of Work, Lost Time, and Labor Wastage. British Industrial
Health Research Board. Emergency Report No. 2, 1942.
Hours of Work in Relation to Health and Efficiency. New York State
Department of Labor. In Industrial Bulletin, May 1941.

The Theory and Practice of Job Rating. M. F. Stigers and E. G.
Reed. McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1942.
Union Participation in Job Evaluation. Harold B. Bergen. In Per­
sonnel, March 1942.