The “IBM Family”: American Welfare Capitalism, Labor, and Gender in Postwar Germany.

TitleThe “IBM Family”: American Welfare Capitalism, Labor, and Gender in Postwar Germany.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationN/A
AuthorsSchlombs, Corinna
JournalIEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Volume39
Issue4
Abstract

This article examines corporate labor and gender relations in transatlantic perspective. It argues that the gendered communication of IBM’s Thomas Watson Sr. shaped labor relations in his company’s West German subsidiary. In the United States, Watson acted as a business progressive, expanding internationally, opening professional careers to young women, and implementing welfare capitalist measures. When IBM took tighter control of its foreign operations after World War II, Watson sought to implement welfare capitalist measures in the subsidiaries abroad. His wife Jeanette by his side, he presented himself as the caring “pater familias.” German IBM employees embraced Watson’s conservative rhetoric of the IBM family but continued to join national unions and formed a works council, thwarting the major welfare capitalist goal of averting labor organization. Against such local labor practices, gendered communication undergirded a loyal workforce even in critical situations, an overlooked factor contributing to the company’s success. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]