MEMOIR: CHAPTER 10: Hiring Practices

Hiring Practices

Several Regional Educational Laboratories were being established around the country by the National Institute for Education, and Portland was chosen for one. NWREL would serve the Pacific Northwest, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and the Pacific Islands with educational research translated into educational practices that would work in the classroom. It was 1969, and I was poised for a change. Both of my projects, in Salem and in Corvallis, had reached a major turning point—the end— as had my marriage.

At that fortuitous moment, I was vigorously recruited by the NW Regional Educational Lab to direct the instructional arm of their new Computer Technology Program. A parallel Program focused on applications of computers for school administrative uses. The two Programs were to be part of the larger Technology Division, directed by Duane.

Duane had a PhD from the University of Iowa, as did his second, already-hired Program Director, Warren. Other Division Directors in the Lab were also PhD’s from the University of Iowa.

Warren’s work was developing procedures for using computers in school administration. My work would be aimed at developing curricula and teacher training to introduce computers into schools. I’d been doing that work for the last five years. In 1969 I knew I was the only person in the country, of either gender, to have hands-on experience with computers in the classroom, training teachers and writing curriculum. I named a high starting salary.

The interviewing committee was aghast. “But we’ve never paid a woman that much.”

“If you want me, that’s my price.”

They were undone. I was bargaining the way men bargain. And fully prepared to pursue other opportunities if they passed me up. I’d had offers from other places in the country, but preferred to stay close to the kids’ Dad, so they wouldn’t lose touch. Nevertheless, I knew what my experience and skills were worth.

“But we’ll have to go to the Board to get approval for paying a woman that much.”

I gathered my things and stood up. “Then go to the Board. But make it soon.”

They got approval, and I accepted the job.

It was only after working at NWREL for a few months as a Program Director that I learned the other Program Director, Warren, with no experience in computers, was still being paid more than I! So were the other Program Directors, all men, in other Divisions of NWREL.

“It’s because most of them have PhDs,” I was told. “And you don’t.”

So a PhD trumped experience and knowledge. I made a mental note.

~ ~ ~

In late summer, 1969, I moved to a large comfortable rental house in the Hillsdale neighborhood in Portland, with Mike, age 10, Kelley, age 8, and Laurie, age 7. There was a “mother-in-law” apartment of sorts, along with four other bedrooms, so Mina moved in with us as nanny. Mina was a tiny, nervous woman who had been my babysitter for the previous several years, and she was willing to move, for a raise in her salary. The kids started school in the fall, and life resumed a sort of pleasing cadence. The kids went off for occasional weekend visits with their Dad. I found that, for me, not much had changed as a parent. In fact, it was easier now, with one less person to please, feed, and cater to. Parenting decisions were mine alone. Life was much easier.

~ ~ ~

My five male coworkers and I were “equal colleagues” though most of the guys were hired from our boss’s “good old boy” network. There were two hiring methods: for men, the good old boy network. For secretaries, another method entirely, which I called the Sharon method. For me, there was no network, and I had been hired as a professional (“unclassified employee”), not a secretary.

Our new Division and our new Programs were staffing up. It was an exciting time for all of us. Duane was interviewing for a Division Secretary. Today, the candidate was Sharon, a comely young woman in a fashionable yellow miniskirt.

First, my five male colleagues prepared Duane’s office for the interview. They carefully positioned the interviewee’s chair so the view was a straight shot from the outer office area, where they clustered, ogling and taking notes. When she had crossed her long and shapely legs, Warren, my co-equivalent Program Director, had a whispered consultation with the  other four guys, and picked up the phone on the reception desk. I heard it ring 20 feet away in Duane’s office. I heard him answer it. “This is Duane.”

Warren spoke softly into the phone, with a satyr-like grin. “Hire her! She’s got great legs!”

“Thank you,” Duane said, and hung up.

Ten minutes later Sharon had emerged with a happy smile, shook hands all around, and  introduced herself as the new Division Secretary.

Fortunately, she was smart, efficient, and competent at her job, and I was fond of her, as she was of me. We sometimes found ourselves, the only women in the Division, alone in the office if the other five guys were off on school visits or trips. On one of those days Larry, the CEO, came into the Division office, glanced into each of the men’s offices, found them empty except for mine, and said, “Oh, there’s nobody here.”

Sharon had stopped him. “Judy’s here,” she pointed out. “What do you need?”

Larry paused and glanced in at me. “It can wait,” he said, and left.

Sharon and I looked at each other, and burst into laughter.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “MEMOIR: CHAPTER 10: Hiring Practices

  1. I admire you for keeping at it!

    • It must have been my motto! There would be NO giving up. It helped that besides being highly motivated and ambitious in my own right, I had three kids to raise on my own. But I still remember those years as great fun, in spite of everything. Now, they are just great stories. Fodder for my writing. I could tell more, but…not a good idea, probably! And, couldn’t we all!?

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