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3.3 *2«6







w. Willard Wirtz



Peterson. Director


\x.V\ 3

Changing Technology


W. Willard Wlrtz, Secretary
Esther Peterson, Director
WB Bulletin 286


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C., 20402 - Price 25 cents

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During the past 40 years, women’s employment opportunities in the
United States telephone industry were strongly affected by conversion
from manual to dial operations as well as by other technological
advancement. Indications are that further automation and the addi­
tion of new telephone services will continue to change the nature of
some jobs, eliminate others, and also provide new job opportunities.
Since the telephone industry has been an important employer of
women for many years, the Women’s Bureau has followed its growth
and development with great, interest. The Bureau’s first major study
in this field was titled The Change From Manual to Dial Operation
in the Telephone Industry (bull. No. 110), 1933, followed by The
Woman Telephone Worker (bull. No. 207), 1946, and by its supple­
ment, Typical Women’s Jobs in the Telephone Industry (bull. No.
207-A), 1947.
Primary aims of the current study are to indicate the effects of
technological improvements on the number of women employed in
the telephone industry, to consider in more detail gradual change in
the job content of the principal group affected by automation—tele­
phone operators—and to gain some insight into employment implica­
tions of future technological changes. Additional material is
presented to give a better picture of the industry as a whole, and in
so doing, to place in context the role which operators play.
While much of the adjustment in personnel requirements was made
by attrition rather than layoff, the numerical impact represents but
one of the human aspects of transition to newly automated systems.
The possibility of displacement creates fears among many workers,
even those to be retained or reassigned. Moreover, all displaced
workers feel the separation strongly, regardless of how many or few
are dismissed at one time.
It is recognized that often difficult adjustments and actual hardships
are borne by those displaced or reassigned, and that need exists for
positive programs to alleviate their distress. A meaningful discus­
sion of these problems, however, requires careful study focused on
psychological and sociological aspects of the subject. This study is
limited to information readily available concerning numbers and job
duties of those telephone workers most affected by technological
It is too early to predict which jobs and how many will be affected
in the future. It is expected, however, the strongest impact will be
felt in clerical rather than in operator jobs.
Esther Peterson,

Director, Women’s Bureau.

This bulletin was prepared by Caroline C. Cherrix under the su­
pervision of Mary C. Murphy. General direction of the project was
provided by Stella P. Manor, who was Chief of the Division of Re­
search and Manpower Program Development.
The Women’s Bureau acknowledges with appreciation the assist­
ance of many individuals and organizations—Government agencies,
labor unions, business associations, and telephone companies—in the
collection of data presented in this study. Special thanks are due
staff members of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company,
the Communications Workers of America, and the Federation of Tele­
phone Workers of Pennsylvania for their helpfulness and many
Photographs which appear in this bulletin were furnished by the
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
and 8; United States Independent Telephone Association, figure 7.



1 Employment Patterns, 1945-60_____________________
Overall Employment Rises____________________
Occupational Ratios Shift_____________________
Distribution Within Operator Classification Remains
Women Predominate in Three Major Groups______
Proportion of Operators Drops Significantly______
Earnings of Telephone Workers_________________
Scheduled Hours of Work_____________________
2 Traffic Department Personnel
Other Traffic Personnel
3 Other Jobs in the Industry
Accounting Department
Commercial Department
Engineering Department
Plant Department
4 A
Look to the Future
Traffic Service Position (TSP)_________________
Worldwide Direct Distance Dialing______________
Person-to-Person Direct Distance Dialing_________
Ocean Telephone Cable
Wide-Area Telephone Service__________________
Communications Satellites
Electronic Central Office (ECO)__:_____________
“Packaged” Central Office Components__________
Electronic Data Processing
Conversations Between Machines________________
Wide-Area Data Service
5 Summary
Appendix: Employment, Hours, and Earnings in 1961_______









Supervisory operators, in the early days, assist the corps
of operators in their day-to-day work________________
Male and female telephone operators at work in the early
days of the industry_____________________
Operators of the 1930’s handle calls at a manual switch­
A long distance (toll) operator has at her fingertips the
equipment necessary to establish most connections___
An information operator uses a large city directory in
order to fill a customer request___________________
Teletypewriter exchange (TWX) customers now are
able to get faster service since the recent conversion
to dial operation
Telephone companies hire large numbers of employees in
the accounting department to maintain the many
company records
A commercial department service representative assists a
customer to select the kind of telephone service she
A telephone operator operates the traffic service position
(TSP) console__________________








Employment in Class A Telephone Carriers, by Major
Occupational Group, 1945 and 1960______________
Percent Distribution of Employees in Class A Telephone
Carriers, by Major Occupational Group,1945-60____
Percent Distribution of Telephone Operators in Class A
Carriers, 1945-60
Average Weekly Earnings of Workers in Class A Tele­
phone Carriers by Major Occupational Group, 1945
and 1960
Average Number of Scheduled Weekly Hours for Workers
in Class A Telephone Carriers, by Selected Occupa­
tional Group, 1945 and 1960_____________________
Employment in Class A Telephone Carriers, by Major
Occupational Group, 1961
Average Weekly Earnings and Average Number of
Scheduled Weekly Hours for Workers of Class A
Telephone Carriers, by Major Occupational Group,
Telephone Operators of Class A Carriers, by Classifica­
tion, 1961






Proportion of Women and Men by Major Occupational
Groups in Class A Telephone Carriers,1960________
Percent Distribution of Women in Selected Occupational
Groups in Class A Telephone Carriers,1945 and I960- -




Employment Patterns, 1945-601
Technological change in the United States influenced the employ­
ment of telephone operators during the long period of transition from
manually operated switchboards to dial operation. But the exact ex­
tent of the impact—both immediate and long-range—was difficult to
discern because of simultaneous countertrends.
On the one hand, the telephone industry was in a period of tremen­
dous growth and required an increasing number of workers to build,
maintain, and operate it. On the other hand, laborsaving automatic
dial equipment was being introduced. Its introduction was spread
over such a long period of time and a wide area of geography, and
*" was accomplished at such a gradual rate that few people outside.the
industry realized automation was replacing manual activity. In
addition other new equipment was being installed during the 10 years
1950-60 to enable customers to dial out-of-area calls with a minimum
of operator assistance.
Planning permitted conversion from manual to dial operations in
each community with little or no actual displacement of permanent
employees. In many places experienced operators were reassigned
from their manual switchboards to take training on new equipment,
while temporary workers were hired to operate the manual boards.
Experienced operators were retrained for jobs in the new dial of­
fices, and opportunities for beginners were limited during the transi­
tion period. If there had been no increase in use of the automatic
dial system since its inception in 1921 and no change in productivity,
more than 750,000 operators would have been needed in I960-instead
of the 225,000 employed. Technological improvements enabled the
telephone industry to expand its services without increasing employ­
ment of operators—-a trend that undoubtedly will continue. Many
operators not needed in the new all-dial offices were given the oppor­
tunity to transfer to other departments of the company in the same
city or to another area. Normal turnover removed others from the
work force of the industry.
' Terminal points for Federal Communications Commission data presented in the main
body of this report are 1945 and I960 (with 5-year intervals arbitrarily chosen as check­
points in some of the analyses). Reasonably complete and comparable statistical data
were not readUy available before 1945. At the time the study was begun, data for 1960
were the latest available. Data for 1961 were released later, but are not included in the
main tables, and text because they show a continuation of trends and do not warrant
publication delay while revisions are made. Tabulations of 1961 data are included in
the appendix.
688-805 0-63-



Women Telephone Workers

In terms of physical equipment, the telephone industry expanded
greatly during the 15-year period 1945-60. The number of telephones
in service nearly tripled—from 28 million to 74 million—and the
average number of daily conversations held by customers rose from 113
million in 1945 to more than 280 million in 1960. At the end of 1961
there were 77 million telephones in service, and average daily conver­
sations totaled over 294 million.2
In 1961 the major telephone system operated almost 66 million
telephones, and independent companies operated roughly 12 million.3
Most independent companies operate in small towns and rural areas,
but some do service large metropolitan areas. The proportion of tele­
phones served by independent companies, as compared with the major
system, remained almost unchanged since 1945 at roughly 16 percent.

Personnel required to install, operate, and maintain this burgeoning
telephone system rose from nearly 400,000 in 1945 to more than 625,000
in 1960, or a gain of 57 percent for class A telephone carriers.4 As
indicated, major factors responsible for keeping the level of employ­
ment from rising even higher were the concurrent development and
utilization of automatic equipment, more efficient work methods, and
enlarged local calling areas.
Between 1945 and 1960 there was a sharp rise in the number of
workers employed in each of the major occupational groups of the
class A carriers except operators, whose employment dropped by 16,000
according to data reported to the Federal Communications Commis­
sion (table 1). Because of the extension of the dial system, operators
did not share in the tremendous growth of the industry as did other
groups of workers. The number of operators has declined almost con­
tinuously since its peak of 262,300 in 1952. With the introduction of
additional automatic equipment, some further decline seems likely. It
is important, however, to keep in mind the fact that although the num­
ber of operators actually declined between the terminal years of the
survey, this group continued to be the largest single unit of telephone
workers, and in 1960 it made up nearly a third of the total.
2 Data exclude Alaska and Hawaii.
3 Data include Alaska and Hawaii.
4 The Federal Communications Commission defines class A carriers as those telephone
companies having annual operating revenues exceeding $250,000. Prior to 1051, class A
carriers were those with annual operating revenues exceeding $100,000. In 1960, class A
carriers employed 90 percent of telephone industry personnel.


Employment Patterns, 1945-60
Table 1.—Employment


Class A Telephone Carriers,

Occupational Group, 1945




Major occupational group

Total employees
Officials and managerial assistants
Professional and semiprofessional employees
Business office and sales employees____
Clerical employees
Telephone operators-_ .
Construction, installation, and maintenance employees
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle
employees - _
_ _ .
Other employees -______ .


1960 1





397, 955

288, 402

626, 399

359, 752

3, 595


6, 031






68, 658


174, 995


17, 788

7, 972

26, 088

7, 856





1 See table A-l for 1961 data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (Form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communi­
cations Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. In 1945
data were compiled by the Federal Communications Commission.

The next largest group of telephone workers was engaged in con­
struction, installation, and maintenance,5 and represented over onefourth of the total, followed by those performing clerical duties, who
represented one-fifth.
While the number of women telephone employees, many of whom
were operators, increased by 25 percent from 1945 to 1960, the number
of male employees rose by 143 percent during this period. As a result,
the proportion of women in the telephone industry in 1960 repre­
sented only 57 percent of all employees, compared with 72 percent
15 years earlier.

In 1945 operators constituted over half of all telephone workers;
in 1960 they represented less than one-third. This reduction can be
attributed largely to the fact that in 1945 just under two-thirds of the
telephones in the major communications system were dial operated for
local calls, while in 1960 nearly all were dial operated. In 1945 all
long distance calls were processed manually by the operator, while in
1960 half of all telephone customers were able to dial out-of-town
station-to-station calls themselves.
“These workers are primarily concerned with telephone company equipment.


Women Telephone Workers

Concurrent with the decrease in the proportion of operators, there
was a sizable increase in the proportion of employees engaged in con­
struction, installation, and maintenance of increasingly complex
equipment, and a doubling of the small group of professional and
semiprofessional employees (table 2). Lesser gains occurred among
clerical workers and business office and sales employees.
Table 2.—Percent Distribution


of Employees in Class A Telephone
Major Occupational Group, 1945-601

Major occupational group

Total employees





Officials and managerial assistants
-__ __ __
Professional and semiprofessional employees
Business office and sales employees _
Clerical employees
Telephone operators
Construction, installation, and maintenance em­
_ __ _
_ . __ . - . .
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle employees___















1 See table A-l for 1961 data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communi­
cations Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. In 1945
data were compiled by the Federal Communications Commission.


Within the operator group the proportion of chief operators, serv­
ice assistants and instructors, and other switchboard employees
remained relatively constant in the years 1945-60. At the end of
World War II in 1945, there was an unusually large buildup in the
total operator work force. This accounted for the significantly
larger proportion of operators in training than in subsequent years
(table 3).

In the telephone industry women tend to be employed in jobs
different from those of men. Virtually all telephone operators are
women; and nearly all construction, installation, and maintenance
employees are men. Women also predominate as clerical workers and

Employment Patterns, 1945-60
Table 3.—Percent Distribution of Telephone Operators in
Class A Carriers, 1945-601

Telephone operators.Chief operators 2
Service assistants and instructors 2
Experienced switchboard operators 3
Operators in training
. ...






:::::: }










1 See table A-3 lor 1981 data.
2 Prior to 1951, chief operators and service assistants and instructors were combined.
3 All operators other than those in training status are classified as experienced, regardless of their length
of service.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Commu­
nications Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. In
1945 data were compiled by the Federal Communications Commission.

as business office and sales employees, whereas men outnumber women
in building, supplies, and motor vehicles6 employment. Men outnum­
ber women by a large margin in the professional and semiprofessional
jobs (chart A). This appears to follow tradition, since on the basis of
mental and physical requirements, most of these jobs are equally suit­
able for both men and women. Telephone companies hire young men
just out of college to become management trainees. Few companies,
however, hire women for such training.
The trend toward simplification of testing, maintenance, and re­
placement of certain central office equipment may give employment to
more women in the telephone industry, and make it possible for
women to fill some installation and maintenance jobs previously
considered unsuited to them.

As a group, the proportion of operators decreased significantly
between 1945 and 1960 by comparison with the total number of
women in the industry. Simultaneously, there was a rise in the pro­
portion of clerical employees and in business office and sales em­
ployees (table 1).
* Employees in this group are chiefly engaged in maintenance of telephone company
buildings and motor vehicles.


Women Telephone Workers
Chart A.—Proportion

op Women and Men in Major Occupational Groups
Class A Telephone Carriers, 19601





Telephone operators

Clerical employees
Business office and
sales employees

motor vehicle employees
Professional and semiprofessional employees

Construction, installation, and maintenance employees ;
i See table A-l for 1961 data.
Source : Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the
Federal Communications Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
U.S. Department of Labor.

In other occupational categories (professional and semiprofessional;
construction, installation, and maintenance; and building, supplies,
and motor vehicles) the proportion of women remained relatively
constant in the 15-year period (chart B).

Earnings of telephone workers showed a noteworthy gain during
the 15-year period 1945-60. Although telephone operators had the
largest percentage increase in average weekly earnings among the
major occupational groups in which women predominate, they had
the lowest earnings in 1945 and in 1960 (table 4).
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle employees had the highest
percentage increase in average weekly earnings of any major occu­
pational groups in which men predominate- They, too, started from
a relatively low level and were still at a low level in 1960. As in
many other industries, workers in the professional and semiprofes­
sional occupations had the highest earnings both in 1945 and 1960.

Employment Patterns, 1945-60
Chart B.—Percent Distribution of Women in Selected Occupational Groups
in Class A Telephone Carriers, 1945 and 19601
Business office and sales

Business office and sales

< 20%

Cl erica





1 See table A-l for 1961 data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the
Federal Communications Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
U.S. Department of Labor. In 1946 data were compiled by the Federal Communications

However, they had the smallest percentage increase in earnings during
the 15-year period.
In 1960 the lowest earnings were in occupational groups in which
women predominate—operators and clerical workers. The highest
earnings were in occupational groups in which men predominate—
professional and semiprofessional, and construction, installation, and
Although there is limited comparability between the jobs in the
service-oriented telephone industry and those in manufacturing, it is
interesting to note that average weekly earnings of telephone operators
rose from $28.32 in 1945 to $69.37 in 1960—a rise of 145 percent, com­
pared with factory production workers’ earnings which rose from
$44.39 in 1945 to $90.91 in 1960—a gain of 105 percent. In terms of
1947—49 dollars, however, factory workers’ earnings increased 24 per­
cent from $57.72 in 1945 to $71.87 in 1960, whereas telephone operators’
earnings increased 49 percent from $36.83 to $54.84.


Table 4.—Average Weekly Earnings




Class A Telephone Carriers


Major Occupational Group, 1945


Average weekly earnings

Professional and semiprofessional employees___
Business offices and sales employees____
-Nonsupervisory employees.- _ _
-- —
---------- ...
Clerical employees
__ __
------------ --- ----Nonsupervisory employees
------Telephone operators - - —
- ...
Chief operators, service assistants, instructors ----- ...
Experienced switchboard operators
—.. _
Operators in training
- ---------...
Construction, installation, and maintenance employees_____
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle employees __

1947-49 dollars 2

Current dollars l

Occupational group

$87. 84
28. 47










1 Based on annual reports (form M) of average hourly earnings of employees of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communications Commission, multiplied by average
weekly hours worked by each group.
2 Derived by applying Consumer Price Index to average weekly earnings in current dollars. Base for Consumer Price Index: 1947-49=100; index for 1945 was 76.9; for 1960,
3 See table A-2 for 1961 data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communications Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
U.S. Department of Labor. In 1945 data were compiled by the Federal Communications Commission.

W omen Telephone Workers


Employment Patterns, 1945-60

In general, scheduled weekly hours for telephone workers have
remained stable since 1945. The only change which amounted to as
much as one hour difference was in hours scheduled for operators,
which decreased by 5 percent. The reduction in number of hours
scheduled for operators undoubtedly reflected both increased utiliza­
tion of operators in part-time work and a shorter work week for full­
time operators (table 5).
Table 5.—Average’ Number

of Scheduled Weekly Hours for Workers in
Class A Telephone Ca-rrieks, by Selected Occupational Group 1945

1960 1
Occupational group



Professional and semiprofessional employees________________
Business office and sales employees________________
Clerical employees
37 g
Telephone operators_________________
Construction, installation, and maintenance employees______
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle employees_____________

37. 7
38. 3

37 9

38. 8
39. 9
37. 2


■ See table A-2 for 1961 data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communi­
cations Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. In 1946
data were compiled by the Federal Communications Commission.

688-805 O—63------3


Traffic Department Personnel
The traffic department handles customers’ telephone calls. To carry
out this function, traffic personnel operate the switchboards, measure
the quality of service, make sure the equipment is working smoothly,
and develop better methods and equipment for handling calls.
To clarify the effect of automation on the number of telephone
operator employees, a special study was made of the changing nature
of their jobs. Details of their job duties follow, along with informa­
tion about hiring standards, training provisions, working condi­
tions, and possibilities for advancement. There is also brief mention
of other jobs in the traffic department, in order to place the role of
the telephone operator in better perspective.

Operators comprise more than 90 percent of traffic department
workers. Together with their supervisors, almost all of whom are
women, they make up a division sometimes called “operating” or
Organization of Operating Personnel

Before the turn of the century the staff of a typical central office
consisted of a few operators (the number dictated by the volume of
business) and a chief operator who sometimes also served as business
office manager. As telephone business expanded in the early 1900’s,
the employment of separate business office managers became more
common. A typical central office then consisted of a manager, a chief
operator, several supervisors, and a corps of telephone operators.
Supervisors were responsible for assisting operators in their day-to­
day work, giving them initial training, and providing supplementary
training as required (figure 1),
More recently, one additional level of supervisory personnel has
been added—assistant chief operator.
The usual promotion line in a sizable central office today is from
trainee to regular operator, service assistant (supervisor), assistant
chief operator, and chief operator. Occasionally a chief operator is
promoted to a staff position, such as supervisor of training or super­
visor of operating methods.


Traffic Department Personnel

Figure 1.—Supervisory operators, in the early days, assist the corps of operators in their day-to-day work.

Women Telephone Workers
Job Duties

In general, the job duties and day-to-day activities of an operator
or a chief operator are similar in each office. Some of the differences
can be traced to variations in operating procedures or practices in a
large metropolitan area as contrasted with those in a small commu­
nity, or in one type of city office as contrasted with another office in
the same area, or those carried on in an affiliated company of the
major telephone system as contrasted with an independent company.
For example, the long distance calls procedure is basically the same
from office to office, but may vary with the type of equipment used,
the size of the office, and the method of operation in the associated
local exchanges.
In some areas a central office handles all types of calls including
local, long distance, and information. There an operator may be
trained to handle each type of call, or may specialize in one type. And
in a large metropolitan area there may be one office' that handles only
long distance calls, another for intercept calls, and another for infor­
mation calls.
The First Operators.—The first telephone operators were boys in
their early teens. This was logical, for boys and young men had
served as telegraph operators. In fact in England, to this day men
serve extensively as telephone operators.
Early operators had a demanding job. They actually had to rush
from one switchboard to another and seldom had a chance to rest.
In addition to putting through telephone calls, they had to perform
miscellaneous duties such as sweeping the office, running errands, col­
lecting bills, and going outside to untangle slack wires crossed by high
Women were not hired as operators until the early 1880’s (figure 2).
Ten years later, they were operating practically all the switchboards
in the major system during daytime hours. Boys and men on night
duty were still common as late as 1904. Even today there are a few
male operators.
Telephone service in the early days was very personal. Operators
knew each subscriber by name and subscribers knew the operators.
Often an operator was asked to do personal favors for subscribers.
It was not uncommon for a customer to ask an operator to locate some­
one and give him a message. Operators also provided what might
be called a news service, for they would willingly relay results of
elections, sporting events, or the location of a fire.

r 'V

p5lfc~"w" '; '..J#1,
.'■i nitnur



Figure 2.—Male and female telephone operators at work in the early days of the industry.

Traffic Department Personnel


Women Telephone Workers

Manual Operator in the 1930's.—Each operator, during the 1930’s,
sat at an assigned place at the switchboard and was responsible for a
certain number of subscribers whose incoming calls appeared on the
board in front of her (figure 3). When a light appeared beside a
small hole (jack) on the switchboard, it signaled the operator that a
customer had lifted his receiver to make a call. It also told her which
subscriber was making the call, because each jack was labeled with the
subscriber’s number.
When the operator saw the light, she inserted into the corresponding
jack the metal plug attached to one end of a connecting cord, and
asked: “Number, please?” If the customer requested a local number
served by the same office, the operator inserted the plug on the other
end of the cord into the jack of the desired line and rang on the circuit.
Light signals showed whether the called number answered and also
when the persons on both .ends of the line had hung up, so that the
operator knew -when to remove the plugs. When a called number
was out of order, or disconnected, or busy, the operator so advised
the caller.
When the call was for a local number served by another office, the
operator had to pass the call for completion to an operator in the
other office, using an interoffice trunkline.
Intercity calls required the cooperation of at least two operators,
although frequently four operators were involved on a single call. A
local operator who answered the call advanced it to a nearby toll (long
distance) operator; that is, to an operator handling nonlocal calls for
which an additional fee was charged. The call then was forwarded
to a distant toll operator, who in turn passed it to the distant city’s
local operator for completion.
Long-distance operators had jacks on their boards labeled with the
names of various towns and cities which were on the main routes used
for calls. If these circuits were busy, an operator would look up an
alternate route. When the customer was connected with the station or
individual he desired, the operator stamped the ticket in a timeclock
device (known as a calculagraph), which indicated the time the con­
versation began. At the end of the conversation the operator stamped
the ticket again to determine the length of the call, so that the customer
could be billed accordingly. All the information on these tickets,
such as customer’s name, place and number of the called party, were
written in longhand by the operator. Afterward, tickets were col­
lected and sorted by hand for billing purposes.
Between 1922 and 1930, the average time needed to make a long­
distance connection dropped from approximately 12 to 2 minutes be14

Traffic Department Personnel

Figure 3.—Operators of the 1930’s handle calls at a manual switchboard.

Women Telephone Workers

cause of improved equipment and procedures. This meant that in
1930 most long-distance calls were handled while the customer re­
mained on the telephone, whereas in 1920 less than 10 percent of the
calls were handled in this manner.
In larger towns and cities, the information operator was specially
trained for her job. In small offices the regular operator provided
information in addition to performing her other duties. This job
has not changed much over the years, except that the directories
which must be consulted are much larger.
The Modem Operator.—Since automatic dialing machinery now
handles 98 percent of all local calls in the United States, operators
are seldom needed to complete such connections. They assist custom­
ers who are unable to dial for themselves, such as children, the blind,
and persons making emergency calls. For an emergency call the
operator obtains as much information as possible from the person
calling, and then dials the appropriate number to summon an ambu­
lance, police, fire department, or whatever service is required. She
stays with each emergency call as long as necessary.
In addition, operators are needed to complete certain types of long­
distance calls, to provide information, and sometimes to let a customer
know that a telephone has been disconnected or is out of order.
The tasks of the operator changed with the introduction of the
dial system, from the repetitive manual plugging of cords and push­
ing of keys to a more or less secretarial type of operation. Opera­
tors are becoming centralized in the larger communities, for
information, long-distance calls, and customer inquiries. These func­
tions require a consistently higher degree of consideration, knowledge,
and initiative, and a more alert attitude than required for the simple
dialing and ringing of a telephone number.
Person-to-person techniques demand, among other qualifications, a
high level of persistence and patience. The art of locating the called
party of the customer’s person-to-person call, while keeping that call­
ing customer from becoming impatient, can be a task requiring skill
and finesse.
Long-Distance {Toll) Operator.—Today’s long-distance operator
has before her a number of devices—cords, keys, a key pulsing set, a
calculagraph clock, billing tickets, and a bulletin showing the rates
and routes to about 95 percent of all frequently called places (figure 4).
Since all calls show up in front of each operator, any operator who is
not busy may pick up any incoming call with very little reaching.
About 50 percent of the long-distance calls can be dialed directly by
the customer.

Traffic Department Personnel



Figure 4.—A long distance (toll) operator has at her fingertips the equipment
necessary to establish most connections.

A toll operator handles many different types of calls each day, and
each has its own variation from the basic call. She helps customers
with calls they cannot or do not wish to dial themselves. She may
supply area code numbers to customers who have the local number
of their party—thus enabling the customer to dial directly. The
operator handles all person-to-person calls, collect calls, calls charged
to a credit card, calls charged to a third party, calls from a coin box,
calls from areas which do not have access to direct distance dialing,
and emergency and other special kinds of calls.
Generally one operator is able to complete an entire call, but some­
times she has to call a distant city operator for the number being
called. If the distant city does not have a dial system, the local opera­
tor must secure the number, or she may have to call the rate and route
operator for the area code if it is not in her own bulletin. So even
today several operators may be involved in a single call.
A basic (simple station-to-station) toll call is handled in this man­
ner : When an operator sees a light on her board, she opens her key
(switch), and plugs her back cord into the jack, answering “Operator.”
Tire caller usually gives her the city and number of the place he
688-805 0—63



Women Telephone Workers

wishes to call. The operator looks in her rate and route bulletin for
the city to be called, determines the area code and any special rout­
ing information, and inserts the front cord into the proper circuit.
Then she key pulses (dials with a pushbutton dial) the area code
number and the called number and pushes a start button.
As soon as the ringing starts, the operator asks the person calling
for his number. When someone answers on the other end of the
line, she records on a billing ticket the time the conversation began.
This ticket provides spaces for recording all the information neces­
sary for billing purposes, such as area code, telephone number of
called place, customer’s telephone number, type of call (credit card,
message unit, charge to third party), and time of day. Meanwhile,
although the operator is assisting other customers, she must keep
watching the base of the set of cords for calls in progress.
As each call is terminated and the base lights go on, she stamps
the ticket to show the time the conversation ended and clears the
circuit by removing the plugs. When a customer has requested “time
and charges” (the length of the call and the charge for it), she refers
to her bulletin and calls him back with this information.
Often calls are much more complicated. In a person-to-person call,
the person being called may be out. The operator asks when he is
expected or if he can be reached at another number, or if the person
placing the call would like to speak with someone else. When the
person being called cannot be reached immediately, the operator usu­
ally leaves word for him to call her when he returns.
In recent years many telephone companies have been using the
“mark-sense” card to record billing information. Operators place
simple marks on these preprinted cards with a special pencil to indi­
cate the area code, telephone number, type of call (including credit
card, and charge to third party), and the number of the telephone
from which the call was made. Subsequently, the cards are fed into
an electronic billing machine which “senses” the markings and forms
the basis for the toll charges portion of each customer’s monthly
bill. So the operator has to write out only the name of the person
called or make any special notation. Prior to the use of mark-sense
tickets, all numbers had to be. written by hand and the toll tickets
sorted by hand.
The differential in charges between person-to-person long-distance
calls and station-to-station calls is being increased in a number of
States, so customers may make fewer person-to-person calls. This
may further affect the need for telephone operators, for while all
person-to-person calls require operator assistance, most station-tostation calls do not.

Traffic Department Personnel

Information Operator.-—Memory plays an important role in the job
of an information operator. Directly in front of each operator is a
list of frequently called numbers which change from time to time
(figure 5). The operator must become familiar with this list to mini­
mize time spent looking up numbers in the directory. There are
two main parts to some directories—an alphabetic listing by name and
an alphabetic listing by street. In many places this directory is
printed about once a month. And in addition to the regular, listing,
sometimes a daily addendum is inserted.

Figure 5.—An information operator uses a large city directory in order to fill
a customer request.

When a customer gives a complete and accurate request, the oper­
ator usually has little trouble finding the correct number. Often the
customer is not sure of the spelling of a name or street, of the first
name of the person being called, or of the house number. The oper­

Women Telephone Workers

ator tries to get as much information as possible before beginning
her search. If after looking under all possible spellings of a name
she does not find it in the street or name directory, she looks in the
addendum. Frequently, she refers to the addendum first for new
or recently changed listings.
An information operator must be a good speller, a quick reader,
and have a good memory, as well as possess other desirable traits. An
experienced operator sometimes is able to handle 100 calls an hour,
whereas a neAv operator may average about 60 calls an hour.
Intercept Operator.—If a customer dials a number which is not in
working order, an intercept operator usually comes on the line. She
asks the customer what number he was dialing, and looks it up in her
directory or reference file. Each number in her directory has a nota­
tion beside it to tell her that a customer lias moved, or the telephone
has been disconnected, or the number is not a working number, or the
calls are being referred to another number. If she has no such nota­
tion, she suggests redialing.
In some areas, when a customer dials a nonworking line, a recording,
instead of an operator, advises him to consult his directory for the
correct number and to redial.
TWX Operator.—The job of the Teletypewriter Exchange (TWX)
operator is comparable to the job of the toll operator, except that the
TWX operator communicates with the customers by typewriter instead
of by speech.
TWX has approximately 60,000 subscribers, any one of whom can
communicate with any other subscriber by special typewriter. A num­
ber of stations also can be connected simultaneously in a conference
service. TWX service is used mainly by business concerns to trans­
mit orders and specifications, to interchange information concerning
availability and price of goods, and to make sales and purchases; and
by law enforcement agencies to transmit information in connection
with crimes, arrests, and police orders. TWX operators generally
work during normal business hours. However, some of them must
work on shifts so as to provide around-the-clock service.
Since TWX service recently has been converted to dial operation,
service is much quicker (figure 6). No delay is interposed by an oper­
ator who must answer the caller and make the connection. Calls are
put through by the caller, who simply dials through to his intended
receiver instead of typing with the assistance of an operator.
The introduction of dial TWX service eliminated the need for many
TWX operators. However, some operators still are needed for spe­
cial types of calls, such as information, conference, and collect calls.

Traffic Department Personnel


Figure 6.—Teletypewriter exchange (TWX) customers now are able to

faster service since the recent conversion to dial operation.

Women Telephone Workers

Supervisory Operators.—An operator may advance to the position
of service assistant (supervisor) after becoming experienced on the
job and showing a potential for supervisory duties, Fach service
assistant is responsible for a certain number of operators to whom
she gives initial instruction, provides supplementary training, explains
new operating procedures, and for whom she handles unusually diffi­
cult calls and customer complaints. From time to time she takes
progress observations on this group of operators, most frequently on
recently trained operators. The service assistant is able to listen in
to any operator at the switchboard. Sometimes an operator is aware
that the service assistant is on the line and sometimes she is not. The
service assistant notes tone of voice, speed of performance, accuracy
of dialing, correctness of timing length of calls, and correctness of
charges. She then discusses her observations with the operator to
plan ways to improve the operator’s service.
In a large city telephone system, there may be a group of workers
called service observers. These women probably once were service
assistants (supervisors) in a central office. Now their job is to sample
daily the quality of operator and equipment service from each office.
The calls which come in to the service observer are selected mechani­
cally to provide a balanced sampling. The service observer listens to
the portion of (he call in which the operator participates. She also pro­
vides summarized reports that give a measure of the quality of service
rendered in that central office. The service observer also samples calls
that customers dial directly, in order to measure equipment per­
There may be one or more assistant chief operators in a central office.
As the name, implies, these operators assist the chief operator, and per­
form her duties when she is out of the office. Usually each assistant
chief operator is responsible for the activities of a group of operators
and one or more service assistants.
The chief operator is the manager of a traffic office, where she super­
vises the work of the operators, service assistants, assistant chief opera­
tors, and clerical workers. She is responsible for seeing that the office
runs smoothly and that the service is good. Among her duties are ade­
quate staffing of all tours of duty (work shifts), helping to solve opera­
tors’ problems, and assuring that all personnel under her direction
have the required training.
She continuously evaluates the service her office provides. For ex­
ample, she is alert to see that slowly answered calls are kept to a mini­
mum and that operators give prompt and courteous service. If she
finds that her office is weak in certain respects, she must determine
the reason for these deficiencies and try to remedy them. If her office

Traffic Department Personnel

is not giving the desired level of service because there are insufficient
operators, she may borrow operators from another office or reschedule
hours so that there will be more operators on duty at times of peak
activity. Or she may institute practice or training sessions to improve
the speed of the operating force.
The chief operator may be responsible for hiring the operators for
her office, although in large cities there may be a centralized employ­
ment office. Also the chief operator is the direct contact between her
office and other central offices in the area, and her office and other de­
partments in the company. As mentioned previously, chief operators
are occasionally promoted to staff jobs such as supervisor of training
or supervisor of operating methods.
Changes in Job Duties.—Some important differences in job content
of a manual operator of the 1930’s and a modem operator can be sum­
marized as follows:
The manual operator of the 1930’s spent a large portion of her time
handling simple, routine, local calls. Today nearly all local calls
can be dialed directly by the customer, and the modem operator is
concerned with them only for emergency purposes or by customer
Long-distance calls formerly required the cooperation of two or
more operators. Today most intercity calls that require operator as­
sistance can be put through by a single operator in a matter of seconds,
mainly because she has more automatic equipment with which to work.
With the continuing expansion of customer direct distance-dialing
facilities, few operators today are concerned with routine intercity
calls. For the most part they handle person-to-person, credit card,
and coin box calls. Many of the calls the manual operator handled
were routine in nature, so the operator was instructed to use standard
language. Today she is not required to use stock phrases; she may
use her own words to meet the demands of a particular call.
It generally is agreed that the mental demands on an operator are
greater than in earlier years, while the physical requirements are less
rigorous. Today the operator does very little standing, stretching, and
reaching. In addition, the manual operator had the monotonous task
of repeating numbers to other operators all day. Today’s operator
usually is able to dial the desired number herself rather than having to
request it of another operator.
Hiring and Working Conditions

Hiring Standards.—The personal characteristics and work habits
that telephone companies desire in their newly hired operators have

Women Telephone Workers

not changed much over the years. High among them are intelligence,
conscientiousness, trustworthiness, and neatness.
Most companies require applicants for operator jobs to pass a gen­
eral intelligence test. High school graduates are preferred, but non­
graduates often are considered when they meet other hiring require­
Usually an operator must be at least 18 years of age. Exact age
requirements vary, however, with the minimum working age set in
each State. For the most part, women over 40 years of age are not
accepted for initial training although there is no fixed maximum age
Frequently an applicant must be able to meet the company’s medical
department standards for hearing, sight, and weight.
In addition to meeting educational, age, and physical requirements,
an operator must have a pleasing voice, good diction, and no extreme
regional accent.
Telephone companies usually prefer to hire young women just out
of high school, with little or no work experience, for training as op­
erators. This group, however, is most apt to marry with subsequent
withdrawal from the labor market, or to continue education at college,
or to go “job hopping.” Therefore high turnover among operators
is a problem for telephone companies in many communities. Through
school and home investigation, companies attempt, before hiring, to
determine whether applicants intend to remain in their jobs for a rea­
sonable period of time.
In many companies high school juniors and seniors are hired as
operators on a part-time basis, working a few evenings during the
week and on Saturdays. Those who plan no further schooling may
become full-time employees upon graduation, whereas those who go on
to college may continue to work on a part-time basis during summer
and vacation periods. Where the college is a local one, some of these
operators work a few evening hours also.
Operators must agree to accept weekend, evening, night, and holiday
tours of duty. Some companies also require each operator to ascertain
that there is adequate, inexpensive, and convenient transportation for
all possible tours of duty.
According to an industry manpower survey by the Bureau of Em­
ployment Security7 there appears to be no expansion demand for
operators. Employment opportunity stems only from the need to
replace operators who leave the industry. This, however, creates
7 Industry Manpower Surveys, No. 103, Telephone Communication Labor Market Devel­
opments, May 1062, Bureau of Employment Security, U.S. Department of Labor.


Traffic Department Personnel

a considerable number of openings at the entry level, although in
some communities there is very little turnover of operators.
Training.—Because of the relatively unique nature of their opera­
tions, in recent years telephone companies have carried on rather
elaborate and cont inuous training programs. At one time there was
no formal training. Instead, each new girl reporting for work was
regarded as an apprentice. She was seated next to an experienced
operator, and learned by observation. The chief operator or an ex­
perienced operator seated next to the trainee pointed out the various
pieces of equipment: the plug, the jack, and the transmitter (mouth­
piece), and gave a few instructions. During periods when telephone
traffic was light, a trainee was allowed to begin regular work. In
time she became a full-fledged operator.
As telephone service increased and equipment and techniques be­
came more complex, these informal training methods became inade­
quate. As a result, some companies issued a series of operating rules
to each operator, with which she was to become familiar, and in some
cases she was required to memorize.
The first formal in-plant classes were held in 1902. Classroom
work was emphasized along with practice on the switchboard.
Groups of six or eight newly hired operators heard lectures, received
instruction in voice modulation and diction, and had drills on a prac­
tice switchboard. Classroom teaching became standard practice both
in large cities and in small towns. But many operators trained under
this method found it difficult to go from the classroom to an actual
work situation, so training procedures were changed again.
In recent years the trend has been toward on-the-job training.
Today classes generally consist of two trainees and a service assistant.
The length of training depends on the complexities of the procedures
being taught, Training of a toll operator may take 3 weeks, while
for an intercept or information operator it may take only 1 week.
In large metropolitan areas where there are a number of central
offices, each office may have its own specialized training program.
An operator trainee usually begins her training by taking a posi­
tion at an actual switchboard on which practice equipment has been
superimposed. After she learns to put through a specific type of
call, she is given controlled practice. A control operator uses the
facilities at another position and originates practice calls according
to a study plan. She simulates customers’ calls so that the student
may develop accuracy and speed. As new situations are mastered,
advanced drills are given.
From time to time a student may be allowed to listen in on calls
handled by an experienced operator. Toward the end of the initial

Women Telephone Workers

training period a trainee may be allowed to put through actual calls,
with her instructor readily available to assist.
When a trainee has satisfactorily completed initial training, she
usually is able to handle the types of calls which occur most fre­
quently in the office to which she has been assigned. Training in
handling less common types of calls follows thereafter.
Working Conditions.—Most telephone offices today are clean, welllighted, and often air conditioned. Lunchrooms and cafeterias
usually are available in the larger central offices. Sometimes lounges
equipped with radios, television sets, and telephones are provided for
use during rest periods and lunch hours.
Since telephone service is furnished around the clock, some opera­
tors are on duty at all times. More operators are scheduled to work
during the heavy traffic hours of the day and evening, and fewer
during the night hours. The amount of telephone traffic varies from
office to office "nd from day to day- Work schedules are changed
frequently to adjust the operating work force to the expected traffic
A typical daytime tour of duty may be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. An­
other might be from 7: 30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. A larger number of oper­
ators usually are scheduled to be on duty from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some
operators may work several hours during the morning and the
remainder of their tours in the evening. This type of duty is called
a “split trick.'’ Some of the less desirable hours may be grouped
into tricks totalling less than 8 hours.
Generally, operators with the longest service (highest seniority)
are allowed first choice of work shifts, and new operators are sched­
uled to work the less desirable “split trick” tours of duties. Some
operators prefer night tours because they mesh more conveniently
with home and family responsibilities.
Employee Benefits.—Fringe benefits are more or less uniform
throughout the nationwide telephone system. For example, there is
a plan by which each affiliated company provides retirement benefits—
based either on age and length of service or on disability—accident
disability benefits, sickness disability benefits, death benefits, and stock
purchase plans.
Generally, employees with 6 months or more of service are entitled
to vacations with pay. Length of vacation varies with length of serv­
ice, and ranges from 1 week to 4 weeks. Operators usually have an
hour for lunch, and a 15-minute relief period to betaken within every 4
hours worked. There are a number of paid holidays each year, rang­
ing from 6 in some areas to 11 in others. Operators who are sched­
uled to work on holidays are given equivalent time off.

Traffic Department Personnel

(Troup health and hospitalization plans are available on a voluntary
basis. Tn recent years many telephone companies have supplemented
this coverage, to provide benefits for extended illness at no cost to
Unions.—It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of telephone com­
pany employees are represented by labor unions. The predominant
union in the industry is the Communications Workers of America,
AFL-CIO, whose members are employed primarily in operating tele­
phone companies and in companies which manufacture communica­
tions equipment. The International Brotherhood of Electrical
YYorkers, AFL-CIO, represents the second largest number of tele­
phone workers, although the majority of its members work in two
other industries—the electrical machinery, equipment, and supplies
industry, and the construction industry. In addition, there are a
number of smaller independent telephone unions which represent
workers in certain geographic locations or in specific departments
within a company.
Women workers, chiefly those employed in the traffic department
of telephone companies, comprise about half the membership of the
Communications Workers of America. They also comprise a large
proportion of telephone workers’ membership in the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Male employees in plant de­
partments represent the other large block of union members.

Two other major divisions in the traffic department are often called
administration or administrative, and engineering.
Among the most common designations for administrative workers
are general traffic manager, general traffic supervisor, division traffic
manager, and district traffic manager. Relatively few if any of these
high level administrative jobs are held by women. Employees in
these positions are concerned primarily with measuring and analyz­
ing traffic loads and traffic patterns, to insure that sufficient person­
nel are available and to develop new or improved operating techniques
or methods.
Dial equipment administration is an area of growing opportunity
for women in this division. Formerly handled by men, these jobs now
are held predominantly by women. Dial equipment administration
workers are responsible for assigning telephone numbers, lines and
trunks, and assuring that all dial equipment is carrying approximately
the same traffic load.
Traffic engineers are concerned both with solution of day-to-day
operating problems and with planning future operations. Because

Women Telephone Workers

of their knowledge of techniques required to operate current equip­
ment and equipment scheduled for future installation, they adjust
the numbers and types of circuits and the amount of equipment
needed to handle the traffic load.
Relatively few women in this country have been trained in any
branch of engineering, so few are employed in this technical field.
From a practical point of view, there is no evidence that profession­
ally qualified women could not perform these jobs.


Other Jobs in the Industry
The organizational structure of most telephone companies includes,
in addition to the traffic department, four other functional units—
the accounting department, commercial department, engineering de­
partment, and plant department. A majority of workers in both the
accounting and commercial departments are women. Comparatively
few women work in the plant department and even fewer in the engi­
neering department.
A brief description follows of the work carried on in these depart­
ments, and of some of the jobs commonly found there. The jobs are
typical of those in telephone companies throughout the country whose
clerical operations are performed either manually or with traditional
office machines.

The accounting department maintains a great variety of telephone
company records (figure 7), so most of the jobs are concerned with
clerical or statistical procedures. Activities often are grouped under
two main divisions—revenue accounting and disbursement account­
ing. The number of jobs and the work performed in this department
vary considerably from area to area. Most of the workers in this de­
partment are women who hold nonsupervisory jobs. Many of the
immediate supervisors are men, and they also hold most of the high
level administrative positions.
Revenue Accounting Division.—This division is concerned mainly
with preparing and sending out bills to customers. This involves han­
dling regular customer accounts, pay telephone accounts, special ac­
counts (teletypewriter, mobile, ship), service orders, long distance
message tickets, and customers’ monthly payments.
Service order clerks work with customers’ original orders for serv­
ice, which include information needed to bill customers for their
monthly service. Such items as basic charges, extension telephone
charges, and directory advertising are included on the service order.
When additional service is ordered or service is canceled, a clerk re­
cords this information on the customer’s record card. From time to
time this clerk reviews service orders to insure that accurate rates are
being charged, and that other details are correct.
Ticket raters compute the rates on toll and message unit tickets
which come from the traffic department, This worker must deter­
mine the charge for each item with a high degree of accuracy, by

W omen Telephone Workers
Figure 7.—Telephone companies hire large numbers of employees in the accounting department to maintain the many company records.

Other Jobs in the Industry

using charts which show various types of calls, such as message unit,
person-to-person, and day rates, as well as the rate for calls to various
When toll and message unit tickets have not been sorted in the
traffic department, ticket sorters must separate the tickets by tele­
phone numbers, so that all the charges for each customer can be in­
cluded on the monthly bill.
Customer billing machine operators enter all the assembled in­
formation (service record, toll statement, message unit total, other
charges and credits) on customers’ bills by punching the keys of a bill­
ing machine which resembles a huge cash register.
Other workers check bills and rate computations; sort incoming
materials; and run calculators, bill-printing machines, addressing
machines, bill-enclosing machines, typewriters, and mimeograph
In some companies, automatic devices have replaced many of the
manual operations just described. For example, an electronic data
processing system, along with automatic message accounting con­
verters, have been installed on an experimental basis in Conshohocken,
Pa. When this system is fully operative, each day the Conshohocken
accounting office—which serves 300,000 subscribers in suburban Phila­
delphia—will be able to prepare 15,000 bills, compute rates for 300,000
account records, post 15,000 payments, review 300,000 collection rec­
ords, and report other kinds of statistical information. This system
and similar ones, although not yet widespread, probably will be in­
stalled soon in large city telephone offices. These electronic data
processing machines reduce the work of billing clerks since the billing
computations are performed automatically.
Disbursement Accounting Division.—This division checks and
classifies incoming bills, summarizes and records expenditures made
by each department of the telephone company, and keeps payroll and
company equipment information (property records). This division
also may prepare other statistical and financial reports monthly, quar­
terly, or annually.
Payroll clerks perform the functions of their counterparts in every
branch of industry, commerce, and government: They record and
compute data needed to pay telephone company workers; keep a great
variety of records of taxes and other payroll deductions for each em­
ployee; compute pensions and determine dates for retirement and for
service pin notices; compile complex reports on such taxes as those
withheld for social security, Federal income, State disability funds,
and unemployment compensation.

Women Telephone Workers

Property and. cost clerics check the many bills and credits for items
bought and returned each month. They also make inventories of
equipment, supplies, and materials taken out of service or put in
Often general company accounts and final reports are brought to­
gether in the disbursement division, and a monthly record made of
all financial transactions such as plant construction, wage expense,
and vehicle costs.
In some companies the accounting department provides the entire
company as well as individual departments with statistical informa­
tion. In others this work is accomplished by electronic data process­
ing machines.
In general, high school graduates are hired for the wide variety
of clerical jobs which characterize this department. In most com­
panies new employees are given on-the-job training to learn how to
operate any special machines used.
Supervisory (management) jobs are sometimes filled by college
graduates, sometimes by persons who have had some college work,
and sometimes by workers with a high school education who have come
up through the ranks.

The commercial department is responsible for conducting the busi­
ness relations of the company with the public. Among its major
activities are writing contracts for service and equipment, receiving
and processing orders for changes in and termination of service, col­
lecting customers’ bills, making coin box collections, maintaining cus­
tomers’ record files, and preparing and distributing directories.
In most companies the majority of workers in this department
are women. Service representative jobs are filled almost entirely by
women. However, men make up a larger portion of the personnel
here than in the traffic and accounting departments. Men are usually
coin box collectors, salesmen of telephone services and directory ad­
vertising, commercial engineers, and managers.
Each service representative is responsible for a number of cus­
tomer accounts. She maintains records of equipment assigned to
her customers, the types of service contracted for, recent toll tickets,
and collection data. She also handles billing inquiries, orders for
new service, changes in service, complaints and adjustments, and
customer telephone and letter requests.
In large city offices, public business offices usually are separate
from customer record offices. For this reason some service repre­
sentatives work only in the public business office, assisting customers

Other Jobs in the Industry

who come in person to discuss their problems. In smaller offices, serv­
ice representatives usually assist customers who come in as well as
those who call or write (figure 8).
High school graduates are preferred for most entry jobs in the
commercial department, However, some companies prefer to hire as
service representatives college graduates or those who have had some


Figure 8.—A commercial department service representative assists a customer

to select tlie kind of telephone service she prefers.


Women Telephone Workers

college work. An applicant must speak well, have clerical aptitude,
and manual dexterity, as well as tact and good judgment.
Companies usually give on-the-job training to their service repre­
sentatives. Classes last about 6 weeks, and are usually limited to two
or three new employees. They are given classroom training, and
toward the end of their initial training period they take calls from
customers. Additional training is given from time to time as the need
Service representatives may be promoted to business office super­
visor, and qualified supervisors may advance to staff assistant.
Employees in these jobs are concerned with personnel, training,
methods, and procedures.
Staff assistants who demonstrate unusual qualifications may be pro­
moted to business office manager or to staff supervisor.
A supervisor may be in charge of six to eight service representatives,
depending on the size of the office. Tt is her responsibility to help
representatives grow in the job, to evaluate their day-to-day per­
formance, and to help them with unusual problems.
A business office ma.nager is responsible for the smooth running of
several offices, each of which may consist of several supervisois and
their service representatives.
Counter tellers receive payment of phone bills when a customer
makes a payment at the office. Mail tellers process mail payments.
They sort incoming communications, send the stubs to the appropriate
service representative, and prepare money for bank deposit.

The principal job of the engineering department is planning the
physical facilities and equipment needed for current and future opera­
tion. The duties of engineers in this department include study of
depreciation and costs of plant and equipment ; evaluation of present
service; and coordination of major companywide projects, such as
conversion to dial equipment.
Most companies have teams of engineers who constantly are study­
ing the facilities needed to provide adequate service in the future for
local and for toll calls. Others determine the proper location for wire
centers and the type of equipment needed in central offices. Still
others estimate the cost of labor, of building construction, and of new
equipment purchases, and they make layout designs for outside tele­
phone plants.
As already stated, few women engineers are employed in the tele­
phone industry. Most women in the engineering department hold

Other Jobs in the Industry

clerical jobs. A growing number, however, are entering subprofes­
sional and technical jobs in this department, such as draftsmen and
certain types of technicians.

The plant department is responsible for the construction and main­
tenance of much of the physical property of the company such as
cable lines, open wire lines, buildings, equipment, radio relay towers,
switchboards, central office equipment, and installations in private
homes and business establishments. Therefore it can be said that
most workers in this department maintain buildings and use, install,
and repair equipment. Some of the more common job titles are tele­
phone (station) installer, lineman, splicer, frameman, switchman,
PBX installer, repairman, and plant engineer.
Traditionally, few women have been interested in or have applied
for jobs in this department. Women who do work here perform
clerical duties in a plant service center—the office which has the re­
sponsibility for coordinating all the work of the plant department.
The center is the focal point to and from which all work orders flow.


A Look to the Future
Extensive research and development stimulated the great expansion
in telephone industry services and equipment. This activity is con­
tinuing, and at present a number of experimental programs are test­
ing the feasibility of new equipment and services for wider use. Other
programs still are in the planning stage and on the drawing boards.
No one can predict the extent to which the jobs of workers in the
telephone industry will be affected by increased mechanization and
the inauguration of new services. Automation will continue to
change the nature of some jobs and the number and types of work­
ers in jobs on which it already has made considerable impact. Intro­
duction of complex automatic equipment to processes and activities
which now are performed manually or with simplified equipment may
cause reduction in employment in some places.
Yet the industry expects continued long-range increase in telecom­
munications employment—although perhaps at a slower rate than in
the past 15 years—as a result of the introduction of new products and
new services and continued expansion in some of the older segments
of the industry. Thus, the future may open the door to new job
opportunities for some workers and close the door for others. A few
of the technological advances which can be expected to affect employ­
ment follow.

The Traffic Service Position (figure 9) is a new type of pushbutton
console that operators throughout the country will be using soon.
Instead of the familiar picture of a line of operators at the switch­
board, there will be pairs of modem, streamlined positions arranged
like desks in an office.
The TSP is designed to replace the switchboard. It is cordless
since all calls are connected in the dial equipment. The TSP is used
only when the operator has to assist a customer or must exercise con­
trol over the call. With these improved facilities, the operator’s
basic functions—solving the customer’s problems and completing his
call—remain the same. With the new equipment, she will be able to
spend less time on the details of processing the call and can devote
most of her time to special requests such as emergency calls, person-toperson calls, credit eard calls, and collect calls.

A Look to the Future


Figure 9.—A telephone operator operates the traffic service position (TSP)



Direct distance dialing was introduced more than a decade ago,
and in late 1961 it was available to about half of the telephone cus­
tomers in the United States. During the next few years its applica­
tion will become widespread throughout the United States and
Canada. An attainable goal is worldwide direct distance dialing by
customers. Today operator dialing is available between continental
United States and the State of Hawaii, as well as Puerto Rico, and
Worldwide direct distance dialing on a large scale is not expected
in the near future. When it does come into existence, the number of
operators handling such calls may be reduced somewhat, but many
operators still will be needed to help with special types of overseas


Women Telephone Workers

Soon customers may be able to dial their own person-to-person
calls with minimum operator assistance. Successful experimenta­
tion has been carried on in two locations with this type of call, and
it is planned for the Nation as a whole in the foreseeable future.
Under this plan a customer first must dial a 1-digit access code, which
signals an operator, who makes contact with the person being called
and tells the person calling that the connection is ready. While op­
erator participation will not be eliminated, her period of contact with
each call will be reduced.

The first transatlantic telephone cable to Europe was installed in
1956. Subsequently, several others were installed to various parts of
the world and still others are planned. New ocean cables which can
handle three times the current number of calls probably will be in­
stalled in the next few years. Ocean cables are not subject to the
fading and atmospheric disturbances of point-to-point radio which
was utilized earlier.

A new telephone service already being offered is Wide-Area Tele­
phone Service, which is for customers who make many long distance
calls to scattered points. For a fixed charge per month, the customer
obtains a special access line connected to the nationwide dialing net­
work ; over this line he can make as many calls as he chooses within a
selected wide area. The widest area covers the entire country except
Alaska and Hawaii. There is no charge for individual calls. The
customer may choose full-time service for 24 hours a day. For a lower
monthly rate he may buy 15 hours of conversation a month, with addi­
tional use charged by the hour.

Scientists have shown, with the launching of the Telstar experi­
mental communications satellite, that manmade satellites can be used
to relay communications between widely separated points on earth.
These satellites are able to provide high-quality, large-capacity, micro­
wave channels across the ocean, enabling them to transmit telephone
conversations, data, and television programs.

A Look to the Future

In the years to come, communication by satellite will become neces­
sary in order to expedite the rapidly increasing overseas communica­
tions. About 20 percent growth is expected each year. Satellites will
be used to supplement radio-telephone communications and underseas
cables. In the final system, three specially designed satellites would
be able to carry much of the international communication traffic of the

The world’s first electronic central office (ECO), a likely forerun­
ner of all future switching systems, has been tested successfully in
Morris, 111. As a result, it will be introduced elsewhere to meet the
growing needs of the industry.
Some of the advanced services provided by ECO are:
1. Use of home extension telephones as an intercommunication sys­
tem (intercoms) by dialing a 2-digit code.
2. Ability to reach frequently called numbers by dialing 2-digit
3. Automatic transfer of call to another line when the original line
is busy, by first dialing a particular code.
4. Connection of a third telephone with an existing telephone
5. Automatic connection of a call to a busy line when it becomes free.
ECO will enable telephone companies to give better service, reduce
maintenance time and expense, reduce space required for equipment,
and simplify some of the engineering problems. In places where it
is determined feasible to install an ECO, central office personnel will
be reduced. However, in many areas installation of ECO would not
be practical for some time because existing equipment is still in good

Two basic sizes of “packaged” central office installations have been
developed. Each “package’ provides all the machinery, apparatus,
and equipment needed to build an office. These packages can be used
to establish offices where none has existed before or as replacements
for obsolescent switching equipment. They provide for direct dis­
tance dialing and for expansion of lines in the future.
These offices can be ordered on a single requisition form. This
cuts paperwork and reduces equipment engineering and drafting ef­
fort, because it eliminates the need for the custom designing and
custom building of each office, and simplifies manufacturing and
installation procedures.

Women Telephone Workers

In recent years a number of companies have installed computer
equipment to handle certain accounting operations, such as billing
and payroll. The notable example of this type of operation is the
Electronic Data Processing Center in Conshohocten, Pa.
For several years, the nationwide telephone system has been using
electronic data processing for several processes, in addition to the
experimental customer billing and payment system in Conshohocken.
The computer equipment serves also:
1. To maintain shareowners’ accounts and to mail dividend pay­
ments (about 2 million quarterly);
2. To calculate construction requirements and summarize mainte­
nance performance; and
3. To prepare financial reports.
The major system also is planning to use computers to handle
routine service orders, which will alfect the work of the business repre­
sentative. In addition, the computers will be able to prepare tele­
phone directories which will affect clerical workers in this field.
Wider installation of this type of equipment will eliminate many of
the jobs which call for repetitive computing, sorting, and summariz­
ing, now done manually or by simple machines. As these computers
take over the complete billing operation, the jobs of almost all service
order clerks, senior accounting clerks, and record clerks will be elimi­
nated. Thus, a fully converted Computer office will be staffed with
data processing clerks who operate the computer, the satellite equip­
ment, the inquiry desk associated with the computer, and the tape
library. Therefore, in offices where there is extensive use of com­
puters, most payroll, statistical, and line assignment clerks will not be

A new telephone service enables business machines to be intercon­
nected by dialing a regular telephone call. With this service, two busi­
nesses can send recorded information (data) to each other through
placing the appropriate local or long distance call. In the foreseeable
future, machine-to-machine “conversations” over regular telephone
lines may equal or exceed the number of voice communications. This
is an added service to business customers and has little effect on the
employment of operators.
By 1965 an estimated 100,000 of these sets of communicating ma­
chines are expected to be in use. Customers of this service may be
engaged in such activities as accounting, administration, credit and

A Look to the Futufe

collections, finance, insurance premiums, payrolls, marketing, and
Unattended operation of the set is possible. A customer may make
a call to an unattended distant set which automatically answers and
connects the business machine. After the call has been made, the
machines are able to complete the transmission of data unattended
and “hang up” when the call has been completed. In the near future it
will be possible to originate and complete calls entirely automatically.

This new service is similar to the wide-area telephone service, ex­
cept that it is used by persons who send a large number of teletype­
writer and data communications rather than make many long-distance
calls. A customer is given an access line, over which he is able to send
messages to any of several designated areas in the United States, except
Alaska and Hawaii. Full-time service (24 hours a day) or part-time
service (10 hours per month with an extra charge for each additional
hour) is available to customers.


The telephone industry is growing in volume of business and in
kinds of services rendered. In 1961 it employed more than 600,000
persons. Although it has been and continues to be a large employer
of women, the proportion of women to total employment has dropped
significantly over the survey period (1945-60).
A number of important shifts have occurred in the composition of
the work force during the past 15 years, as indicated by Federal Com­
munications Commission statistics (tables 1 through A-3). These
changes appear to have taken place primarily because more efficient
equipment was used.
Automatic equipment and other technical improvements have been
introduced to improve the quality and usefulness of telephone service,
to satisfy the expanded demand for service, and to keep the cost of
service relatively low. The introduction of dial equipment for local
calls probably has been the most significant technological factor affect­
ing the jobs of operators.
There were few if any large layoffs due to the conversion. Gener­
ally operators were offered transfers or reassignments to positions left
vacant by normal turnover. Even though the number of operator
jobs has not changed markedly in recent years, job duties have varied
somewhat, and there has been some shift in emphasis. The job of the
operator shows a decrease in routine and an increase in public relations
Kepresentatives of the industry expect that further technological
advances probably will have considerably less impact on operators
in the future than they have had in the past. Operators will con­
tinue to handle calls that need special attention, such as emergency
calls, information calls, and certain person-to-person calls. Since they
still form a large group of workers among whom there is considerable
turnover, the industry will continue to offer many job opportunities
to young women interested in becoming operators.
Introduction of additional and different types of automatic equip­
ment may produce another realinement in telephone job structure and
opportunities. Innovations in equipment now being introduced or on
the drawing boards may make it possible for women to perform some
jobs in the industry formerly held almost entirely by men. However,
no large-scale shift is expected in traditional hiring and promotional
patterns in the jobs in which men now predominate. A substantial


expansion is expected in business and sales offices, especially in public
relations activities which are filled mainly by women.
Automatic data processing systems are beginning to perform cus­
tomer billing, payroll, and internal line assignment functions. Some
workers still will be needed in these areas, but an increasing proportion
may be skilled technicians rather than clerks. In addition, it is pos­
sible that clerical departments may turn to shift operation, for costly
automatic data processing installations usually are operated around
the clock. This also may adversely affect the employment of women.
The immediate outlook for clerical occupations in the telephone
industry is good. However, over the long run the outlook is uncertain
and depends on the rapidity with which billing operations are con­
verted to data processing, and on the opportunities extended to women
to be hired and trained for new jobs created as a result of automation.



Employees in class A telephone carriers totaled more than 605,000
at the end of 1961 (table A—1). Over half the workers were women,
most of whom were operators.
The largest groups of employees were telephone operators and con­
struction, installation, and maintenance workers, each representing
over one-fourth of total workers in the industry. Clerical workers
accounted for approximately one-fifth of the total personnel.
Table A 1.



Class A Telephone Carriers,



Total employees
Major occupational group

Total employees
Officials and managerial assistants____
Professional and semiprofessional employees.. .. _ _
Business office and sales employees___
Clerical employees
Telephone operators
Construction, installation, and maintenance employees
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle
Other employees

Major Occu­

Group, 1961 1






605, 165


340, 771


6, 057







172, 396





7, 335


24, 893






' See tables 1 and 2 and charts A and B for earlier data.
2 Less than 1 percent.

Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communi­
cations Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Average weekly earnings were highest for professional and semi­
professional employees, and construction, installation, and mainte45

Women Telephone Workers

nance workers—groups in which men predominate (table A-2). The
lowest earnings were found in occupational groups in which women
predominate—operators and clerical workers.
Scheduled weekly hours were lowest for operators, which probably
reflects the prevalence of part-time work.
Table A-2.—Average Weekly Earnings
Weekly Hours




and Average Number of Scheduled
Class A Telephone Carriers, by Major

Occupational Group, 1961 1


Occupational group

Professional and semiprofessional employees-----------------Business office and sales employees--------------Clerical employees-------------------------------------------------------Telephone operators----------------------------------------------------Construction, installation, and maintenance employees. .
Building, supplies, and motor vehicle employees------------





1 See tables 4 and 5 for earlier data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communi­
cations Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

The 1961 figures, though not exactly comparable with earlier fig­
ures, indicate that the proportion of chief operators, service assistants
and instructors, and other switchboard employees has remained rela­
tively constant in recent years (table A-3).
Table A-3.—Telephone Operators


Class A Carriers,



1961 1
Telephone operators...-------------------------------------Chief operators___________________
Service assistants and instructors. _
Experienced switchboard operators
Operators in training-------------------Others___________________________


174, 014
129, 609
19, 846


i See table 3 for earlier data.
Source: Data are based on annual reports (form M) of class A telephone carriers to the Federal Communi­
cations Commission and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.



c,er v a°'