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Corporate story-telling: the buxomly secretary, a pyrrhic victory of the male mind

  • Design


A story about a secretary, a mechanic, and a typewriter as told in a company provides the starting-point for this paper. With the story in mind we then discuss two lines of thought which arise from it: (1) Gender, stereotypes and unity, (2) Gender, stereotypes, and technology. Gender is an important common denominator and gives a feeling of 'us-ness' in the heterogeneous world that a large company represents. At the organizational level and at the general societal level, male unity can bridge cultural heterogeneity and hierarchical distances. Stereotyped images of women affect the way male R and D workers think and, ultimately, also the way technical artifacts are designed. We intend to describe how gender images become embedded in machines, and to indicate some of the negative results of this as manifest in the development of the typewriter. Our conclusion is that superior corporate male thinking and behaviour do not pay off in the long run.

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