Let’s Get Rid of “The Girl”


This is the 22nd in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.

Wouldn’t it be great to take one giant step forward for womankind and get rid of “the girl”?
Your attorney says, “If I’m not here just leave it with the girl.”
The purchasing agent says, “Drop off your bid with the girl.”
A manager says, “My girl will get back to your girl.”
What girl?
Do they mean Miss Rose?
Do the mean Ms. Torres?
Do they mean Mrs. McCullough?
Do they mean Joy Jackson?
“The girl” is certainly a woman when she’s out of her teens.
Like you, she has a name.
Use it.

I’ve been fortunate to start my career after this article was published, and to have always worked in an environment where I do not recall this ever being an issue.

But I’ve certainly seen enough movies and read enough books to be aware of this having been a problem. I would guess that there are still a few places where women may be referred to in this way, but from my perspective such places are few and far between.

That certainly does not mean that everything is OK in the business world in terms of how women are treated.

There are fortunately some positive signs of growing respect for women and their capabilities outside the business world:

  • Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina appear to be strong candidates for President of the U.S.
  • 1st Lieutenant Kristen Griest, and Captain Shaye Haver just became the first female Rangers.

So hopefully the advances that women have made in these settings will soon start to manifest in the business world.

In the meantime, let’s start with making people aware of the discrepancies in pay and promotion opportunities noted above, and work to right this wrong.

Side note – I think my recollection is clear on this, but I’ve asked a few others where I work and no one else seems to remember it.

When I first started at Villanova in 1986, there were only two bathrooms for faculty and staff – and that’s how they were labeled! Not men and women, but faculty and staff.

We did have a few women faculty at the time (not nearly the number we have now), and I wonder what they thought when they saw that sign each day. I wish I could find photographic evidence of this, but smartphones weren’t around then, so I ‘ll just have to rely on my memory.

Plus it would have been kind of creepy to be taking pictures of the restroom doors…

One thought on “Let’s Get Rid of “The Girl”

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