The American Cold War Executive: Gender and Corporate Culture at Mid-Century

Saturday, January 7, 2012
Sheraton Ballroom II (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Karen Ward Mahar, Siena College
For over a century, corporations have used gender ideology to create desired internal corporate culture as well as a favorable public image.  This poster session will focus on the gendered visual culture of the American corporation between 1945 and 1960.  The masculinity of the American executive would seem unquestioned during this period.  Indeed, the American businessman took on a new masculine identity, charged with demonstrating the superiority of capitalism as the iron curtain fell in Europe and the threat of a welfare state loomed at home.  But the power of labor curbed the American executive, as did the presence of women, who had to carefully negotiate the boundaries of the masculine corporation.  My research aims to examine the American corporation in situ:  as a subset of American culture.  Thus images of male and female corporate managers in the pages of Life, Ladies Home Journal, and jokes in Reader’s Digest inform my reading of gender in post-war corporate culture.  The architecture of the modern office and modern office building, and the image of secretaries and corporate wives will also be considered.  This is part of a larger comparative study of gender and corporate culture in the US and the UK between 1920 and 1970.  It will, if it seems suitable, include comparative images from the UK during this period.  And if possible, I will include relevant film clips via laptop.
See more of: Poster Session, Part 2
See more of: AHA Sessions