One of my favorite TV shows was “Mad Men,” a period drama about an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s. One of the things I found so compelling about the show was how strictly it adhered to every detail of the time period — from the costumes and set design, to the cultural norms of the time. This included the discrimination and harassment the women in the office endured, not to mention the fact that (at the beginning of the series) not one of those women worked outside the secretary pool.
Eventually in the storyline, one secretary, Peggy Olsen, had the courage to show her creative skills to the men in charge and was promoted to copywriter, the only female one in the company. By the end of the seven-year series, Peggy was on her way to being an executive at a top advertising agency.
Peggy was based on real-life copywriter and advertising genius Jane Maas, who became only the second woman officer in the history of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather. In 1964, Maas landed a job as a junior copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather, writing ads for everything from Dove soap to American Express. She rose to become a creative director before leaving in 1976 to join Wells Rich Greene, where she created the iconic “I Love New York” ads and wrote the classic book, How to Advertise.
I’m grateful for the trailblazers of my industry who had the courage to aim high and succeeded in breaking into what was a men’s-only world in the mid-20th century. Having more women in design has only made the industry better.