It’s official. Season six of Mad Men, which premiered on Sunday, is going to be all about the women this year. New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley writes:
“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 by death; it’s the women who keep us wanting just a little bit more.”
We cannot wait to see what the women of Mad Men do this season, but for now let’s take a look at some of the lessons we can learn from past years.
1. Ask for more.
Peggy Olsen is a Levo League girl! Though the poor girl never had the career advice resources that the women today have she still managed to Lean In! Peggy Olsen is one of the most interesting characters on the show because in season one we thought she was just a naive, shy little secretary who would never get anywhere and look at what she has become. She works extremely hard and brings a young, fresh perspective to every campaign which many of her colleagues simply can’t do, even Don Draper.
In the clip below she boldly goes up to Roger Sterling and states her case for why she deserves an office, and he gives it to her. She was never going to get it otherwise.
2. Don’t just do what’s expected of you, do what makes you happy.
Now, the truth is, it was just so much harder for women in the time that Mad Men started its run. It was harder for them to pursue careers and it was really not expected unless they had to make money. In 1950, only one in every three women entered the workforce. But we have seen the changes in society for women reflected on the show as time goes by, especially with characters like Peggy and Don’s new wife, Megan. By the 1960s, social and economic forces made higher education more available to women, thus increasing their job opportunities. Between 1960 and 1965 there was a 57 percent increase in women being awarded degrees in the U.S. (the same figure for men rose by 25 percent). But women were still not supposed to be openly ambitious, and white men still dominated everything.
Betty Draper, perhaps the most fascinating character on the show, is the symbol of what Betty Friedan warned about in The Feminine Mystique. It was a very different time for women back then. The new generation of feminism was just coming into play. Women until then had been raised to believe that their purpose was to find a good husband, even if they were well-educated. She feels empty and unsatisfied, even though, categorically, she has everything she should want (well, no one needs a philandering husband). Part of the reason Betty is so angry is that she didn’t get to pursue anything outside of being a wife (and she is probably clinically depressed). But still, she never even got the chance to Lean In!
3. Learn how to play with the boys.
If you work in a male-dominated atmosphere like Peggy, you need to be able to keep up and play nice. This means that you need to go to social events that everyone else goes to, you need to create relationships with the men, and you need to do things that they do.
After a few times of Peggy being uninvited to her co-workers’ meetings, she realized that she needed to make a change. So, she began dressing more like a woman and started attending events that the men all went to, such as going out for cocktails. If you are not a part of the inner circle, then you may miss opportunities that everyone else has. Plus, men are fun! Try to build relationships with them and find a common ground. But you don’t have to sit on anyone’s lap like Peggy did (actually, just don’t do that).