"Dangerous" Woman: Three Entrepreneurs Who Paved the Road of Women's Business Leadership

July 26, 2017

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"On 8 August 1959, the Saturday Evening Post published a sensationalized article about the female chief executive of Beech Aircraft titled 'Danger: Boss Lady at Work.' In it, the 'Boss Lady,' Olive Ann Beech, was caricatured as autocratic and austere, insecure yet self-righteous, and the author warned readers—as the title suggested—to beware. Reportedly, more than one businessman had declared, 'I'm scared of that woman!' But according to the article, Beech herself was undaunted. 'I never concerned myself with what people thought of me,' she stated. 'If I had, I'd have been pretty mousy.'

The idea that a 'boss lady' at work was dangerous tells us a great deal about the historical context in which female business executives led and the obstacles they faced in the mid-twentieth century. Alarms about a crisis in American masculinity were de rigueur in popular magazines in the 1950s, and social commentators were quick to connect the problem to women. One result was a pronounced current in American popular culture of the 1950s that endeavored to prop up men at the expense of women and to demonize women who in their success appeared to embody an assault on men. From this viewpoint, women leaders who played a dominant role in American business were dangerous."

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