Roger Sterling: Get me some coffee, will you?
Peggy Olson: No.
Get ready – the season premiere of Mad Men’s final season is coming this Sunday! While it may be hard to say goodbye, at least we still have two more seasons of Game Of Thrones. It has been an enthralling experience with these complex characters and intriguing plotlines. We’ve discovered so much about what working environments were like in the 1950s and 1960s: copious amounts of alcohol, stylish outfits, and a considerable amount of sexism toward women (despite advances over time). Unfortunately, equal pay for female employees remains as dismal now as it was back in 1963.
Titled “Mad Men”, the show may lead one to believe that it is just about a man, however, this could not be further from the truth. Its primary focus has and always will revolve around female empowerment as confirmed by New York Magazine when they placed Elizabeth Moss, who plays Peggy with her unwavering strength and modernity on their cover earlier in 2020. “Elizabeth Moss Has Been the Star of ‘Mad Men’ All Along.”
As Season six of the show was set to begin, New York Times columnist Alessandra Stanley wrote:
“But the women of the show, more than the men, are the ones who defy expectations and break ground. The show about so-called mad men was always a paean to the sane women who serve them. As the series prepares to shut down, the men seem spent and preoccupied with death; it’s the women who keep us wanting just a little bit more.”
The upcoming season of Mad Men is sure to be filled with invaluable advice and inspiring moments. Until then, let’s reflect on the meaningful teachings from past seasons that continue to influence us today!
1. Ask for more.
Peggy Olsen is a prime example that modern-day Levo women should look to for inspiration! Despite never having the proper career advice resources available, Peggy still managed to Lean In and make something of herself. The transformation from an initially shy secretary in season one to the powerhouse she became has been immensely inspiring – you can really see how her hard work and youthful outlook have contributed positively throughout all her creative campaigns. Even Don Draper had difficulty keeping up with her innovative ideas!
In the clip beneath, she confidently approaches Roger Sterling and emphatically makes her case for why a private office is deservedly hers. Without this bold move, she would have never received what was rightfully hers; however, with a strength of character and determination to speak up for herself, he granted it without hesitation.
2. Break the norms and embrace what brings you joy.
In the era when Mad Men began, it was much more difficult for women to pursue a career in comparison with today’s standards. In 1950, merely 33% of all females entered the workforce – an astonishingly low number considering what we know now. It wasn’t encouraged or expected that they would work unless there was no other choice but to earn money. As the years progress, we witness the alterations in society that female characters like Peggy and Don’s new wife Megan illustrate. In the sixties, higher education became more accessible to women prompting a surge of increased job opportunities – for example between 1960-1965 there was an astounding 57% rise in females obtaining degrees across America whilst men only saw a 25% increase. Despite this advancement, however, it was still unadvisable for women to be overtly driven as white males dominated every sphere of life.
Betty Draper, an exceptionally captivating character on the show, is a representation of what Betty Friedan expressed in The Feminine Mystique. During this time period, gender roles were unbalanced and women had been taught that their value was predicated solely upon marriage – even if they had achieved higher education. Fortunately for them (and us!), the emergence of feminism started to challenge these archaic notions. Despite having everything that would seemingly make one happy, Betty feels empty and unfulfilled. It’s understandable why she is so frustrated; not only did her husband cheat on her but also she never had the opportunity to pursue anything beyond being a wife. On top of it all, depression looms over Betty like a cloud – robbing her of any chance to lean into something more meaningful for herself.
3. Take control of the game with your male counterparts.
To keep up with and thrive in a predominantly male-dominated workplace like Peggy’s, it is essential to build relationships with the men around you. This can be accomplished by attending social events that everyone goes to, participating in activities they do, and engaging them in meaningful conversations. With such effort, you will no doubt make your presence known just as much as any of the other males present!
After Peggy had been overlooked a few times, she recognized that something needed to be done if she wanted to become part of the inner circle. She changed her style and started joining her male colleagues for drinks or other activities. As soon as you’re outside your group, chances are you’ll miss out on opportunities available to others inside it – and who doesn’t love spending time with guys? Try connecting with them in healthy ways and find mutual interests – but don’t show too much affection as Peggy did!
4. Take the opportunity to be a mentor for an inexperienced young woman in your office.
After some initial tension, Joan and Peggy have developed a dynamic bond of mentorship despite their differences in rank. While never one to mince words or be overly polite, Joan has become an invaluable source of reality checks for Peggy–even if the advice isn’t always welcome! Thanks to her tough love approach, Peggy’s career blossomed as she finally felt comfortable coming into her own skin. Not only that: but with Joan’s help, she even learned how to dress like a true professional woman.
5. Command a room.
Joan does a lot of things you probably shouldn’t do, but one thing she does right is conveyed that she is a very strong woman, and you don’t want to mess with her. Yes, many of the men are mentally undressing her, but at the same time, they are terrified of her. Joan went from secretary to head secretary to becoming a partner at the advertising agency. In anything Joan does, she shows that she is completely in charge. Whether she is running a product test or attending to a bloody lawnmower victim, Joan is the office mom (and the office siren).
I adore the video below because it shows Joan outsmarting the boys (and all other women), teasing them expertly in the process.
6. Dress to impress.
Style is an integral character in the show. It helps some characters, like Don, to gain more power and confidence. You can also witness Peggy’s transformation from frumpy Peter Pan collars in her first year to a much more serious style once she climbed up the corporate ladder. This was inspired by Joan’s advice when Peggy inquired about how to be taken seriously among men: she had to dress as a woman instead of appearing like a child!
7. Avoid getting romantically involved with your superior or colleagues
The women in “Mad Men” were given a crash course on what not to do when it came to working attire, as Joan, Megan, and Peggy all had difficulty staying clothed! Especially for the era during which offices acted both as bedrooms and pubs.
If you are considering dating someone at your job, be mindful that the possibility of a satisfying outcome is slim. When working together with your romantic partner ends, it will be essential to remain professional and separate yourself from any personal feelings of hurt or pain. Peggy’s experience sadly concluded in an unplanned pregnancy and Pete Campbell was still married; whereas Joan became deeply discontent feeling as if she was just Sterling’s mistress. Dating within the workplace isn’t something to take lightly without fully understanding all possible outcomes beforehand.
8. Do pursue your passion.
After Megan transitioned from secretary to wife of the boss, she noticed that her coworkers began treating her differently. Rather than enduring it any longer, she decided to take a stand and quit the job so that she could pursue her true passion – acting!
9. Do beat your enemy at their own game.
In the last season, we witnessed Sally Draper begin to unravel the intricacies of adolescence. During one episode she arrived at Miss Poter’s boarding school, a place that piqued her interest — only to be welcomed by an individual who easily made Blair Waldorf look like Glinda the Good Witch! When Sally was backed into a corner by her threatening companion, she knew that her support network could save the day. She remembered Leonard, an old and creepy friend who always had alcohol and male company on hand – something totally unheard of in pre-Instagram days. Thanks to Sally’s quick thinking, Leonard came through with everything they needed! It was then that the girls realized what an asset she really was – proving once again just how powerful your network can be when you’re faced with difficult situations.
What other lessons have you learned from Mad Men? Tell us in the comments!
Photo: Mad Men / Facebook