Recently, I’ve been catching up on my Mad Men, and as I observe Sterling and Cooper’s office dynamics, I cannot help but get fired up when I see the way Peggy Olson, Joan Holloway, and the other “girls” are treated, or, at least in Peggy’s case, forced to jump through hoops and face social ostracization just to secure a “man’s job.” Watching Sterling and Cooper’s office culture also makes me appreciate the fact that I work in an environment that is positive and empowering. For this week’s installment of Vintage Sexism, I’ve turned up some ads that look like they came straight out of MadMen!
The ad at top left depicts a sexualized lab technician and reads, “should a gentleman offer a Tiparillo to a lab technician? The ad at top right satirizes women’s lib in an attempt to sell copy machines, proclaiming, “before the grumbling becomes a revolt, have a peaceful demonstration in your office.” The image at the bottom is a photocopy from the July 1943 issue of Transportation magazine, written for male supervisors of women in the work force during World War II. It includes eleven tips for “getting more efficiency out of women employees.”
These ads and article may seem ludicrous, but not too far off from inequality in the workplace today, as documented at equalitymyth.com. Shocking statistics on sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as the significant gap in pay, remind me that not every company is as egalitarian and women-friendly as ModCloth. A 2008 article by Harriet Rubin from portfolio.com states, “while women have made huge professional gains in the past three decades,” that progress appears to be stalling, and even backsliding. “Key indicators such as pay, board seats, and corporate-officer posts all reflect a leveling off or drop in recent years. Although the gap between women’s and men’s pay narrowed significantly through the 1980s, gains since then have been partly erased by a drop every few years,” Rubin reports. “In 2006, women over the age of 25 earned 78.7 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. labor department.”
It’s your turn, ModReaders! How do these ads featured in this post strike you? Do you think women have achieved equality in the workplace, or do we still have a ways to go?