Paternalism and Pink Collars: Gender and Federal Employee Relations, 1941–50

Women substantially increased their presence in Washington, D.C.'s federal civil service during World War II. Accordingly, agency administrators struggled to define and address the “needs” of these new government women. This article analyzes the crucial role that gender played in the renegotiation of management strategies and policies during the 1940s. It examines the popularization of the human relations school of management in federal agencies and reveals how gendered concepts of authority impacted the employment prospects of female civil servants. The war provided an opportunity for some managers to promote a more “feminine” interpretation of human relations, but as this article demonstrates, that interpretation rested upon stressing the difference between male and female workers. In addition, postwar conservatism allowed for a reassertion of more hierarchical, “masculine” approaches to employment management in the civil service.