My first job right out of college was at J Walter Thompson Company in
New York. I had an Ivy League degree and I was hired as…a typist. I
spent the day putting carbon paper in documents, throwing them out and
starting them over, and polishing my nails. I handed a guy his coat
and hat. I was one of the women in Mad Men. The only woman in a
position of power in the agency, an account executive, worked on Singer
Sewing Machines, Maxwell House Coffee, and Preparation H. She was such
a nervious wreck that she had to wear gloves all day to cover the rash
on her hands (eczema). She smoked and drank like a fish. Fresh from the
rarified atmosphere of Cornell, I thought all this was disgusting.
Which is why I quit my “glamour job” after six months and went back to
school to get a Ph.D. Unaware of the discrimination on college
campuses, I thought that was a place I could be known for my
intelligence, and not for my ass.
That wasn’t really true either, so I decided to forget about
discrimination and forge ahead. I ended up starting my own business.
I had to do it, because no one was hiring women to be anything I wanted to be (CEO, etc.)
Ironically,, I think I succeeded because I did not drink at lunch, all
the men did, and I was sharper in the afternoons. I also capitalized on
being a woman. I presented myself as one of their daughters. I was
careful to admire them. I allowed myself to be “mentored” by people who
didn’t know one tenth of what I did. I did what it took. I buried fear, anger, anxiety, and depression.
When I saw Mad Men, I knew someone was finally telling my story.
I spent esterday at BlogHer2008, thanking the gods for the last forty years and what they’ve done for opportunities for women. So many women are in business now, and so many opportunities exist that didn’t exist in the days of Mad Men.