It used to be that a corporation would not hire junior executives until the personnel manger had taken a look at the person once [WORD ILLEGIBLE]referred to as the little woman, the bail and chain or the better half. The job candidate's wifey had to show herself as a demure, good hostess and supportive wife and mother, if young hubby was to find employment at International Universal-Cosmos, Inc.
The apogee of this taking of people of immigrant, farming and working-class backgrounds, and turning them into corporate types was right after the second world war: The era of the gray flannel suit, the narrow tie, the organizational man with 2.8 children, .7 cats and .4 dogs.
The family was to cut and tailor itself to the management's needs for pliable, reliable men whose families were happy to be transferred as often as Army officers and were content to have a dad who traveled all week and went to the office on Sundays to catch up on back work. The members of many families, however, balked at being asked to make such sacrifices for an organization that enabled Pop to put roast beef on the table and three cars in the garage, but which believed human life is profit and loss. The children of many such families became the hippies of a decade ago and, although that bit of extravagant social acting-out has vanished, families are often still unwilling to accept the proposition that friends, community, all values that can't be expressed in monetary terms, ought to be sacrificed to the necessities of the large organization.
Big business, which has always fought its employees having any loyalties outside the organization, is now retaliating by becoming almost openly anti-family. The Wall Street Journal recently (May 18) reported, "The divorced, the single and even the married but childless all benefit from the growing corporate complaint that families today resist transfer more than ever before. One corporate response is to resist families."
The article cites other reasons for giving preference to singles besides familial opposition to being uprooted and turned into affluently rootless corporate nomads. One objection to families is the tendency of parents to spend too much time with their children, especially if they are young children. Also, unattached people, having diminished human loyalties and allegiances, can make career decisions quicker because their only spouse is the corporate bride.
Some corporations actively encourage divorce. Upon being offered a job with a Midwestern firm, an executive explained to the company's board chairman that his wife would divorce him if he accepted the offer. The Wall Street Journal quotes the board chairman as replying, "Go ahead, I don't care what you do on your own time - just raise sales 330 percent."
As more and more women have careers, instead of a job, to supplement family income, corporations will become even more hostile to marriage and family. A spouse with a serious, independent career is even harder to move around than the old-fashioned husband with a stay-at-home wife.
Corporate executives don't see the institutions over which they preside as home-wreckers. In their minds, as well as in the opinion of the populace, corporations are conservative social organisms. They are thought to be stand-patters, resisters of all change. In actuality, though, one of the least controversial and most effective ways of accomplishing change is to present it as something old, something familiar and safe.
Radicals often create problems for themselves by calling for change. Change is chancy, change scares people and thus it is easier to achieve it when you say you're really not advocating anything new, but are trying to restore the old.
That's what corporations do. They do so all the more effectually because corporate managers are personally oblivious to the changes they bring about. Most of them would be deeply disturbed if they understood that, by attaching promotions, money and power to the unmarried status, they are undermining the integrity of the American family. They don't see it that way because they've been trained not to see anything which is irrelevant to the annual report to the stockholders.
When the consequences of what they're doing begin to show up in our national life, they can blame the mess on the teaching profession or social workers or ministers or women's libers. The rest of us outside the circle of corporate management are endowed with sight, however, and we had best use it.