Then & Now: Women in the Workplace Series – Part 1

By Paige Knorek

Did you know that just over 11% of all Douglas Machine employees are female?

As the newest employee contributing to that 11% statistic at Douglas, I was surprised to be given the opportunity to write an article on the topic: “Douglas – Then & Now.” I’m still learning about Douglas as it is now. I was very excited to do some research on the rich history of Douglas over the years.

After considering the possibilities, however, I decided to narrow my focus to a topic I was truly curious about: the women who have been employed at Douglas since the company was first established in 1964.

In order to get a credible perspective on this topic, I interviewed seven women, including one retiree and six current employees. Their work spans every decade of Douglas’s existence, and therefore provides insight into the experiences of women in the workplace over time, the variety of work that women have contributed to Douglas, and their advice for women who are interested in working in an enterprise like Douglas.

To track the changes from then to now, I begin with my interview with Pat Thoen, the very first female employee at Douglas Machine. Following Pat’s interview, the series continues in chronological order up to the most recently hired at Douglas.

Thank you to Pat Thoen, Becky Iverson, Therese Jakes, Jackie Caron, Brenda Larson, Kylie Harer and Candy Eschbach for allowing me to publish your thoughts and experiences, and for all that you do and have done at Douglas! Hearing your stories has been inspiring and encouraging to me as a young woman at the start of my Douglas career.

Interview with Pat Thoen

  • How long did you work at Douglas, and in what position(s)?

We moved to Alexandria in 1964, and the company was started right away. I worked on a part-time basis. If there was any office work, I did that in the evening because I worked as a legal secretary elsewhere during the day. I worked at Douglas until the early 1980s. I said, “When the computer comes in, I go out!” By that time, other girls were doing secretarial work at Douglas.

  • What drew you to this line of work? What specifically brought you to Douglas?

In high school I had planned on being in an office job of some kind, so I took those kinds of courses. My husband asked me to do the secretarial work at Douglas, so I said okay!

  • In a nutshell, what did you do at Douglas Machine?

For my first couple of years at Douglas, I did all of the secretarial work. After a while I narrowed my focus to just bookkeeping.

  • Were you married and/or were you raising a family when you started working at Douglas?

Both. I was married to Bud and we had two children.

  • Was it usual for women to be working at the time when you started? Did many of your friends and female peers work?

Quite a few of my female friends and peers worked.

  • How many of the people on your team were also female? What was that like?

I was the first female employee at Douglas, and the only female employee for quite a few years. In those days there weren’t that many people working at Douglas. At the start it was mostly Bud’s family. I think I knew everybody.

  • In your opinion, how has the role of women in the workplace changed over time? Why do you think those changes have occurred?

I think women have much more responsibility and they get paid better than they used to. More women are working, and not as many women stay home with their kids. It’s necessary for income. We want more things these days, so it’s necessary to work to have those things.

I can remember when the first women were hired in the painting department and even out in Parts. We didn’t think about women having jobs like that. It was different!

  • Any other comments?

In working with the bookkeeping part of the company, there were many times when we didn’t have the money we needed. When it would be time for Payroll or there would be bills due, there were many mornings – I couldn’t count how many – I would go into the prayer group and say, “We need [specific amount of money] today.”  There was not one time that the money didn’t come that day. The company thrived because of God’s blessings.

Embrace Opportunity at Douglas Machine

Check back with us often to read the next interview in this series. To learn more about Douglas Machine and our diverse family, be sure to contact us today. You can also reach out to us for more specific information on our secondary packing solutions. We’re always here to help!