Stephanie Shirley: sexism in the canteen at the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill

Stephanie Shirley discusses the sexist atmosphere in the Post Office Research Station canteen (at Dollis Hill) in the 1950s.

This clip is an extract of an in-depth interview taken from the Oral History of British Science programme.

Listen to the full interview track and all other tracks from this interview on British Library Sounds

This business of having different restaurants and canteens for different grades of staff, which one did you get to eat in?

Oh the general one. And, it was quite exciting because – the big one. Because when I first walked in there, about 200, you know, handsome, intelligent men turned round and looked at this new female that had sort of turned up [laughs]. So, and that, you know, took – it was quite, you know, you were … it was almost scary to go into a big place like that, 100, not quite 100 per cent but ninety-nine per cent men. And, as the years have gone on, sort of, got used to it and can give as good as I get, but … from the management point of view, it’s always much better to have a group of women rather than a sole woman trying to break into the board or whatever it is, because the stress is just so high. And also if you’re the only one, if you fail, you fail for all women, and they say, ‘Well we tried one of those and she was awful.’ Whereas if you succeed, it’s also remembered, but somehow the presumption is that, ‘We had her and she was good; at least we’ll try another one and see if it works again.’ Ugh! Yeah. Sexism is – is not quite as bad as anti-Semitism, but it’s pretty tough.

  • Interviewee Stephanie Shirley
  • Duration 00:01:35
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 11/08/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/28

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