Mad Men, the iconic television show of the 50s and 60s, has finally returned after an 18-month hiatus. I must admit to being a follower of the show, but the pause in the action has stretched and strained my connection to its characters and plot lines. The following morning after watching the second hour of the two-hour opening, I found my thoughts returning to the show. As I walked my dog along the riverfront, the women characters continued to linger in my mind. I wondered what will happen to them? And then I decide, without much pause, that I already know. Mostly I know what will not happen.
The brilliant Joan will not become CFO though she will coach the male figurehead from behind the scenes for her entire career. I know this because I know the experience of my Aunt Dote who, for the 30 years of her career as an accountant ,was required periodically to train the men who were to become her bosses at the Ford Motor Company.
The hardworking, talented, and dedicated Peggy will not be promoted to partnership, as 40 years later I would not be included in the management team that formed, after the company I founded was purchased. And all those secretaries whose professional lives involve dodging the sexual harassment of their male bosses, or succumbing to it, will not be rewarded by stock options or golden parachutes when those same men decide their services are no longer needed.
We know this because 50 years later most women who’ve worked all their lives do not have the benefits and financial resources to live comfortably in their elder years. Megan, and the other women who become wives of these same men, will not develop anything close to their full potential. Their energies will be spent pleasing their masters and staying youthful enough looking so a woman from their daughters’ generation will not replace them.
I know that things have changed, and other things are changing. But pardon me if I suggest, given the recent public discourse over women’s preventative health care, many things have not changed nearly enough. And yes, it is a tribute to all women that some of us are able, on behalf of all of us, to get mad.