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Monday, September 1, 2014

Gender bender Betty Crocker in OSU Class of 1936

Mercedes A. Bates Betty Crocker OSU Class of 1936

PHOTO: the gender bender Mercedes A. Bates was an Oregon State University Class of 1936 home economics major who became famous for her promotion of the Betty Crocker Kitchens at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she became the first female Vice President of General Mills despite it being an era when women were regularly discriminated against in the workplace and limited to mostly secretarial jobs because society expected women to be at home raising a family and would say there was something queer about you if you were a "career women." The phrase "career women" was often used to refer to butch dyke lesbians who had enough balls to compete with men in the workplace before the Women's Liberation Movement succeeded. In 1992, the Mercedes A. Bates Family Study Center was opened at OSU to study families during their entire lifespan.

UPDATE Sept. 9, 2014 my letter to the editor and additional links:

I applaud the recent news of Oregon State University Professor Susan Shaw receiving a National Science Foundation grant for research on how to increase the percentage of OSU women faculty in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). (See Oregon Statue University Press Release "Grant will support, encourage women in academic STEM careers at OSU," posted Sep. 2, 104)

I am sure this would have pleased Mercedes Bates, whose name is on OSU Bates Hall, because she was a 1936 OSU graduate, in what was called the science of "home economics," who founded the Betty Crocker Kitchens as a Vice President of General Mills in an era when most women were limited to secretarial jobs and raising children.

Likewise, Dave Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard and a conservative Republican who served in President Nixon's administration, believed that growing HP required better meeting the needs of all customers worldwide, which could be helped by increasing the diversity of HP scientists and engineers in all dimensions, including gender, race and nationality.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "OSU's effort to get more women teaching sciejce merits applause," Gazette-Times, Sep. 9, 2014, p. A7)

- See the following links and previous posts:

END UPDATE Sept. 9, 2014

I first met the Oregon State University alum and General Mills executive Mercedes A. Bates when my father, who had earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, was hired by General Mills to help "engineer" the "miracle" food products of the middle 20th Century that soon surpassed the sales of General Mills' original business of milling flour on the banks of the Mississippi River. I recall my mother immediately figuring out Bates was the boss and also a very creative one who could span between understanding the needs of women while also leading a bunch of men to get women what they wanted with new cake mixes, canned frosting, etc.

I do not know if Bates' ever came out publically about her sexual orientation or gender identity, but her public gender bending of the traditional female roles could not be hidden and it was so visible that I vividly recall my mother commenting on it in a respectful manner, unlike other women who would call Bates a bitch.

Despite much progress has been made toward gaining gender equality in the workplace between men and women, only 24 CEO's are in charge of the Standards and Poor's 500 biggest publically held companies. In 2000 only 6 had female chief executive officers. See article by Jeff Green, "This is Not a Trend: More women are in top corporate jobs -- just not ones that lead to the corner office -- 'It's very hard to move from a functional job to a CEO job'," Businessweek, Sep. 1-7, 201, p. 19-20 posted online Aug. 28, 2014 as "Why the Next Mary Barra May Be a Long Time Coming"

Also of interest in the same issue is the article by Josh Eidelson, "Washington Struggles to Get Gay Rights Right," Businessweek, Sep. 107, 2014, p. 29-30 posted online Aug. 28, 2014 as "Marriage: Some Federal Agencies Still Don't Recognize Same-Sex Marriages".

See previous posts and other links below: