AS MORE and more women join the work force, it follows that many of them are getting the key to the corporate washrooms.
When these women reach executive levels, it is only natural that companies not only investigate how effective they will be, but also how their spouses will fit in as "members of the team."
There was a time when a man, who was being considered for a good job, had to produce his wife to see if she was the "right kind of person" to be married to a corporation executive. This was usually done discreetly by inviting the wife to dinner with her husband to meet the other executives and their wives.
But now for the first time companies are taking a harder look at the husbands of women they are planning to hire.
Flagstaff, a pal, had just been put through such an ordeal, and he reported back to me the next day about what had happened.
"Janet told me," he said, "that she thought she had the vice presidency of United Globetex all sewed up. The final test, she said was how the top enchiladas reacted to me. You can imagine how nervous I was, because her career was at stake. I asked her if I should wear a hat and white gloves, but she said a dark blue suit, a white shirt and a conservative tie would do just fine. Then I said, 'What do I say to all these big shots? I'm not good at small talk.'
"'Just be yourself,' she told me, 'they don't expect anything great out of an executive's husband. But since you'll be traveling with me a lot, they want to make sure that you won't do anything to disgrace the company.'
"I asked her if I should bone up on the corporation so I wouldn't look ignorant when it came to United Globetex affairs. She said she didn't think I should discuss business as I would only make a fool of myself. So I said 'What should I talk about?' and she replied, 'The children, clothes, football -- but don't forget to tell them you went to Harvard so they won't think you're a dummy.'
"Well last night I went through my ordeal of fire. They took us to the "Four Seasons" restaurant. There were three executives and their spouses.
"The husband of the president was a mousy type and he gave me the onceover like I was dirt. He wanted to know how my golf game was. I told him I didn't play golf. I thought Janet would die. But the president was very nice and tried to put me at ease. She said some of the husbands of the top echelon didn't play golf either. If you want to know the truth I think she was making a pass at me -- but I ignored it.
"After the chit-chat, the executive vice president got down to business. She said a husband's role in the company was just as important as the wife's. She expected Janet and me to be a team. That meant I had to entertain important customers in my home or in a restaurant, take the spouses shopping or sightseeing, and make them feel welcome while my wife was trying to close the deal.
"Janet's immediate boss asked me if I had a drinking problem, which I of course denied. She asked me if I minded Janet going to meetings in other cities and being away from home when duty called. I said, of course, I didn't. I was not one of thse husbands who always complained when his wife started packing her bag.
"This seemed to satisfy them all, and even the mousy husband of the president gave the impression that I would fit in. As a matter of fact, as we left the restaurant, the executive vice president whispered to Janet. 'I think your husband is adorable, and he seems awfully intelligent for a man.'"
"That must have pleased Janet no end," I said to Flagstaff.
"It did. When we got home she hugged and kissed me and said, 'Honey, I'm on my way up the corporate ladder, and whatever happens, I'm taking you with me.'"