Peggy, the lone female creative in Mad Men, would often still be in the minority in many ad agencies, conference rooms and judging panels.
And the lack of women creative directors is noticeable looking at Cannes-winning creative—which seems very male humor driven. And that’s funny, considering women buy more stuff we all create advertising for.
As a female creative director, I know at my old agency I would have never been promoted to creative director. I am too girly. And while I like winning awards, at the end of the day I want to a good mom and wife and need flexibility—the kind I get at my smaller agency, Brogan & Partners. In fact, most of the great creative women I’ve known in my career either quit to raise their kids, got laid off, laid under the radar as they want to be the worker bee and not the Queen Bee, or were passed over as their male bosses hired mini-me males. Unfortunately, the Good Old Boy Club still exists. And even now as I sit on an advertising council (that has some female executives on it) I am the sole female creative from an agency. Like Peggy. How times haven’t changed.
Why do you think there are not more female creative directors?
Ok, I admit it. I am mad about the new Mad Men collection of dolls by Barbie. Yearn for a Don Draper to carry around in my purse. Sadly, madly, will have to wait for JULY to buy. Much as I fear being left out by this generosity, I am sharing a secret way to be first in line: Go to AMCTV.com and sign up for a notification when they reach the market. May the best women win!
As compensation for lack of immediate gratification, I have just ordered the complete three-season set of the MM series. And just bought a ticket to the Adcraft Club of Detroit’s Mad Men party on June 15th
During the Mad Men hiatus I use cable on demand for episodes I missed or want to see again. A recent one showed a secretary being hit on and verbally swatted by a group of tipsy account guys. She walked away with personal dignity; but how did she come back day after day to face the same people and the potential of the same humiliating treatment? Remember that this TV show takes place in the early ‘60s before there were any sexual harassment laws, before there was any consciousness of the corrosive effect on women’s careers.
Not only was a woman personally degraded by sexual harassment but her career was also degraded. Who can rise in an organization, who can become a leader if she is seen as a victim, as a potential plaything instead of any type of professional?
These days things are quite different in most workplaces thanks to activists and feminists of the recent past. However for many men and for some organizations treating women fairly is not done out of a raised conscience but only because of the raised cost of violating new legal standards.
Many organizations continue to diminish women even if they keep to the letter of harassment and equal opportunity laws. Let’s look at the largest and most influential groups in the world—the Catholic Church. Women cannot take any post of meaningful leadership, as they are not able to be priests. And why is this? Certainly there is no commandment from God or proclamation by Jesus on this subject. It is simply that the men of the church do not want to share the power and the riches. And sadly there is no legal, moral or societal pressure to make them share it. Which not only keeps women out of that workplace, it fosters that attitude of women as “less than” and second class. And directly results in policies that are contrary to the best interests of so many women. Birth control except for the unreliable rhythm method is still completely prohibited for anyone for any reason. As is abortion.
Of course, Mad Men hasn’t got into ecclesiastical gender politics; but it clearly and powerfully shows the historical position of women in the corporate workplace. And it makes me feel really good about all the positive changes. And makes me a raving mad woman about all the organizations, people, attitudes that are still wallowing in the patriarchies of the past.
Yippee! On Sunday Mad Men won the Golden Globe for best dramatic TV series. It should also take the cake for its disturbing portrayal of women. Note that I am not talking about January Jones' headband.
Disturbing not because wrong, but because so right. Women were subjects for mockery, objects for ogling, and --at the very best-- professional second bananas in the 1960s workplace when series takes place.
And also in early 70s when I began my ad career. Even though the Women's Movement was starting up and even though I was working in a non-traditional ad agency. My agency was then known in town as the Jewish agency. Our execs were not invited to join the mainstream business or golf clubs. Although we did great creative work, it was primarily for retailers and not for auto clients--which in Detroit was the sign of being a real agency.
Our founder was a man of principle, of enormous talent, of great courteousness and generosity; his warmth, spirit and drive drove the culture of the workplace. Yet even with his mindset, no woman held a truly senior position at that time or ever. (Which was the cause of my starting my own agency in 1984.) And in the 70's a senior creative manager regularly harassed women -- and they were fired for non-compliance. This included my creative partner, who never even thought about confronting or reporting him--at that time, there was no such thing as a sexual harassment concept or crime. (The owner was reportedly shocked, angry and embarrassed to find out about his colleague's longstanding behavior when revealed in a lawsuit a decade later. And fired the slimeball.)
Like Mad Men, our agency had a Joan, the eyes and ears of a top executive...who amassed power over other women. Our Joan once instructed me to tell a colleague to use more deodorant and to stop wearing hotpants to work. (Hey, it was the 70s; I got my job wearing white go-go boots...) I refused Joan--and could get away with it only because I was a creative professional and not in a secretarial of administrative position.
Even though I was somewhat protected both from Joan and from any harassment by my position and by my boss--like the owner, a man of integrity and fairness--I was still a mAD WOMAN on behalf of friends who did not have the same situation.
If you are interested, I will tell you some of their stories.
Mad Men has become the iconic go-to TV show for those mad about advertising, business life, the 1960s, unbridled smoking and drinking, adultery, the oh-so-smoldering Don Draper.
It's also an inadvertent history lesson about a woman's place in the workplace.
A history that I have lived. Even though I started in advertising in 1972 and Mad Men is taking place in the early 60s, my workplace and my industry mirrored the show. For example: Most of the women at my first agency were secretaries or administrative level; every senior level position was held by a man; no racial diversity; the city's major local ad club and business club did not admit women--in fact, at the business club a woman guest had to use the back door.
In this blog series I'll celebrate what's changed for women place in the advertising workplace. Rant about what hasn't. And orate a bit about what is changing for everyone in the advertising business.
Please add your voice, your experience, your 2 cents.