Sunday, January 6, 2013

1913 - Can a woman keep a Secret?

The Evening World
January 6 1913

Business Secrets Safer
With Women Employees
Than They are with Men

"I have never known a case where a business woman violated the trust reposed in her," declares Miss Elizabeth Cook, who has been in charge of many members of her sex who occupy positions of confidence.

"The business woman is not in danger of having her employer's secrets won out of her by the influence of whiskey," She adds.

Marguerite Mooers Marshall.
Can a woman keep a secret?

The average man has always said she couldn't.  The average man has of course said a great many foolish things.  Apparently he has never stopped to consider that he knows nothing about the quantity or quality of the secrets kept by women--because these secrets are indeed kept.

Now listen to what the women have to say about it.  Over in London Miss Charlesworth, Chief Superintendent of the Local Government Board's typist, is evidence before the Civil Service Commission, gave special praise to the loyalty woen show their employers and the general efficiency and superiority of women over men in the keeping of official secrets.

Miss Florence, Secretary of the Women Clerks and Secretaries' Friendly Society, added corroboration.  She said:  "There can be no doubt that women are far safer as clerks than men.  A business secret is rarely, if ever, divulged outside by a woman clerk.  Unlike the men, they do not, when they leave the office, indulge in long conversations about their work.  men babble to men far more than women do to women."

Further Confirmation of the Wonderful Fact.

And the testimony of these two widely experienced Englishwomen is confirmed by an equally prominent New York Business woman.  She is Miss Elizabeth Cook, for several years the private secretary of the general manager of the New York Audit Company, and with over fifty women working under her.  She now holds a position of equal importance with a big banking house in William street.

"I have never known a case," Miss Cook told me, "where a business woman who could be seriously considered a s such violated the trust reposed in her.  Many women, particularly those engaged in secretarial work, occupy positions of the very greatest confidence.  They are invariably faithful and possess a sense of business honor as high if not higher than that of men.  I have heard many employers say that they preferred women to men in confidential positions."

The work done by the New York Audit Company when I was there was of an exceedingly private nature.  Moreover, the reports handled by the company could have been sold to the newspapers or to other interested parties by unfaithful employees and a great deal of money could have been made.  Every stenographer employed by the company was a woman, yet I never knew of one breach of faith.  Women were sent all over the country on the most important business of the company.  The general manager, whose secretary I was, had a great belief in the business woman, and it was certainly justified.

"Of course," Miss Cook added, "when one says 'business woman' one doesn't refer to the little pin-moeny girl who goes into tan office for $6 or $8 a week.  One can't expect a tremendous sense of business responsibility for such wages, but the woman earning $22 or $25 or or even $18 a week is the last person on earth to gossip about her employer's affairs outside business hours.  She never dreams of discussing with others any financial secrets that may be entrusted to her."

"Then you don't think there's any truth in the familiar assertion that a woman has no sense of honr?"  I asked.

Miss Cook's pretty mouth puckered dubiously.  She is a fair-minded young woman, despite her ardent belief in her sex and the earnest advocacy of suffrage, which dates from her Cornell days.

She Doesn't Believe Women are Born Liars.

"There is some truth in the cry that women are not honorable," she admitted.  "But their failure in this respect, when it occurs, is not due to any inherent weakness.  I don't believe that a woman is born a liar, any more than a man.  Little children of both sexes tell fibs quite indiscriminately.

But as the boy grows into manhood he is thrown into a world which has decided that honesty-a certain sort, at least-is the best policy.  It is practically forced upon him by his fellows.  Now is it with a woman?  Until recently, all her success came through cringing and wheedling and lying, surprising secrets and telling them.

"Physically weaker than man, she could only dominate him by--by"---

"Indirect influence?" I suggested.

"Very indirect influence," amended Miss Cook, dryly.  "And since it was man who forced this state of affairs upon us, it scarcely behooves him to assume the role of superior moralist.

"When women are treated fairly and squarely, according to their merits, as happens in a well-conducted business office, they readily respond to such treatment.  Instinctively loyal, instinctively conscientious, instinctively careful of details, they quickly acquire and put into practice the standards of business honor.  It is no harder for woman to keep secrets than a man--once she realizes the necessity."

"Don't you think, too, that women are more apt than men to drop business when they leave the office?" I suggested.

"Yes, I do," said Miss Cook.  "In a sense that's not a compliment to us, because it looks as if we took our business less seriously.  Yet the business man is so often the victim of the fixed idea.  The business woman nearly always has at least one strong interest outside her work.  Then, of course, she has to pay a lot more attention to her clothes than if she were a man.  Then very likely many of her friends are not in the business.  So she has lass temptation to take her office affairs home with her, and if she carefully does lock them up in her desk at 5 o'clock she won't have much chance to betray them.

"One thing can certainly be said of the business woman.  She is not in danger of having her employer's secrets won out of her by the influence of champagne or whiskey.  she leaves that perilous excuse to the man clerk or secretary.  Her business life is not brought to grief through attempted 'high life.'

"And there is another temptation to dishonor which comes more often to the business man than to the business woman," Miss Cook ended, with a pitying note in her voice.  "I have noticed so often, in defalcations, that the guilty man has been struggling unsuccessfully to care for a wife and family.  Of course, the business woman often has those dependent on her, but rarely is the pressure so strong as in the case of the man working at her side.  It's perfectly natural, too, that he should want to marry young.  The fact remains that his 'business honor' is often unable to stand the strain of the responsibilities he has assumed."

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