Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back in the Day When I was a "Mad Men" Woman

     Politically speaking, there has been a lot of attention lately around a specific segment of the population  in this country. According this web site, 66% of this group turned out to vote vs 62% of their counterparts.  It stands to reason, therefore, that the candidates will be enthusiastically vying for these votes.
     I am obviously talking about women.
     Reading and hearing about how women will have vital influence in this next election,  I am reminded of what times were like for women when I became eligible to vote.  At the time the voting age was 21.
    Back in the day, when I first started out in the work force, working conditions for women were much different than they are today.   Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the accuracy of the portrayal of women in the workplace as depicted on the TV show Mad Men.
     I found an excellent review of the show which focuses on the subject of the "Women of Mad Men" written by Stephanie Coontz from the web site
     After getting out of school, I worked in the accounting department of a large company for a brief period of time of about six years.
     Before I relay the following incident, I have to preface it by pointing out that I was not a "burn my bra feminist".  In fact, as I still am today, I was a shy and quiet person.  But sometimes, even the quiet ones need to speak up.
     Here's what happened:
     My manager typically would have a calendar depicting scantily clad women hanging on the back of his office door.
      In 1972 Burt Reynolds posed nude for the April issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.  It was a removable poster size photo.   I brought the poster to work, and taped it onto the wall next to my desk.  In a matter of minutes, my manger came over to me and insisted that I take the poster down.  I replied that I would, but only after he took down his girly calendar.  He and I agreed to admire our  "art work" at home instead of in the office.
      I have many memories of out of control office parties and lecherous old men.
      After I married and became pregnant with my first child, I left my job at the beginning of my 7th month, which by the way,  was company policy.  Oddly enough, since it was a layoff, I was eligible to collect unemployment.  So, every two weeks I stood in line to collect my unemployment check, but was also required to show proof that I was actively looking for employment.
     I was a stay at home mom for the next nine years.  In the early 1980's, after my youngest started school, I took a position with a large, somewhat on the conservative side, company.   By then while conditions for women were not perfect, they had vastly improved.
     When I think about it now, it seems incredible that not that long ago, in 1993,  I took the initiative to request that woman be allowed to wear "pants" to work, if they chose to do so.  My request was denied, by the (need I say it) male VP, with the explanation that only dresses or skirts were considered appropriate attire for women.
     I subsequently wrote a report detailing why women should be allowed to wear slacks to work.
     This was my summation:
     "From my research of other large companies, I have learned that a majority of companies are allowing    and even encouraging casual dress on designated dress down days and that the trend towards casual dress can be advantageous.  Casual dress can improve employee moral, encourage creativity and improve team building skills.  I recommend beginning a casual dress day policy once a moth for a three month trial period.  If the feedback is positive after the trial period, I recommend having a dress-down day every Friday."
     I don't know if my report had much influence or if it was just the changing times, but after much consideration, the dress code was changed to allow for casual dress, but only on Fridays.
     By the time I retired from that company in 2002, there was no dress code.  And as it turned most people, men and women, did not need a directive to tell them what appropriate office attire should be.
     My priorities are much different today.  I have grown cynical about what politicians can actually accomplish.  As I listen to the sound bites of each of the candidates, I wonder if any of them actually understand how to bridge the gender gap.  Do they understand that most women of today can see right through their offerings of flowers, candy or a trip to Jared's? (I hate their commercials, by the way.)

I have created a page for Anna's Diary.  It can be found under the Tab titled Anna's Diary.
I have posted all of the entries to date there, starting with January 1, 1929.

Here are yesterday and today’s entries from Anna’s Diary:
Wed, May 8, 1929
Home all day preparing for my birthday tomorrow.  Had a table of bridge at Washington from Mrs. Al. Mrs. C, and Mrs. Carr came with me.  I wind prize.  Pari of silver salt shakers.

Thurs., May 9, 1929
My birthday.  Twenty-seven.  Had Elsie, Minnie, Kitty, Helen, Mary, Mrs. B. Mrs. L, Mrs. C, Mrs. A, Mrs. M. ,Agnes and Edythe.  Ha a beautiful table for luncheon.
Born ‘02


  1. I once worked for a steel fabricating company.  The company was owned by a very proper Englishman and he did not like the idea of women wearing pants, but he allowed it, mostly because there were only 3 women and the office manager was very blunt and too the point.  She got pretty much whatever she asked for.  This was in the mid 80's.

  2. I enjoyed your article a lot.  It shows how things have changed in the workplace for women.  My hope is that women (young and old) still remember the need for them to vote regardless of "how" they vote, but that the right to vote for us was hard fought and shouldn't be forgotten.  We are the only ones who can continue to strive for equality.  I am very cynical about politicians myself, but if I am ever to see a woman president for instance in my lifetime, I need to encourage women and vote.  Thank you for this great article (and thanks for helping us wear pants in the office...!!!)

  3. Having worked in an industry where the women outnumbered the men in our district, as far as credentialed teachers were concerned, ten to one, I can only say that I tread carefully in my space.  I arrived late by two minutes to a meeting on one occasion, and was met with a round of applause when I showed up.  Maybe we could compare notes for some reversed sets of circumstances. 

  4. Thanks.  I'm glad you enjoyed my article.   Even thought I am cynical about politicians, I agree it is important to vote, which I do. 

  5. Ross taught for 30 years.  And he, like you, mainly worked with women.  I don't know if he was just always comfortable around women or if he developed that comfort after working with women for so many years.