Wood, Merle W. 1971, “Data Processing in Marketing”

This is a case study of a 1971 handbook titled Data Processing in Marketing, a pamphlet found in the John H. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History.  This handbook demonstrates gendered tensions during a transitional period in technology use and advertising in which it seems that data technology was used by and understood by women, but profited from and purchased by men. For example, the images in the handbook often show women using technologies, but the text and practice issues are directed at men. 

Furthermore, this handbook demonstrates how even instructional manuals and technology education materials are biased, although they may seem “objective.” 

Topics in this exhibit include:

  • Applications of data processing technology in the marketing industry 
  • Reality versus narrative of women using technology
  • Instructional exercises highlighting gender stereotypes and roles

Click through Gallery 1 below to view some of the images featuring women doing data processing:

Gallery 1

ch 3

Images vs. Text, Narrative vs. Reality

The difference between the handbook’s texts and its images shows a disconnect between the masculine narrative about technology and the reality of women’s technology use. As can be seen in Gallery 2 below, the handbook’s text and subtext are directed at men, while the overwhelming majority of the images show women as the ones actually using these technologies. 

Gallery 2

Practice Exercises, Real Situations

Gallery 3 includes practice exercises and examples in this handbook seemingly based on real life situations involving women, technology, and the advertising industry. A variety of gender roles and stereotypes are assumed, but truths about women’s relationship to data processing technology are also revealed.

In the first exercise, a secretary named Mrs. Griffin wants better technology to help her at her job, but she is too scared to talk to her boss about it. In the second exercise, a group of women described as the “gaggle bunch” gossip about what they have learned about customers from their automated data machines. The final exercise is an example of a survey format for consumer data collection, one that excludes Black women by definition of “hair type” of white women.

Gallery 3