topic
Women and Careers -- Then and Now

Introduced: October 06 2011

A dialogue about women and career options was inspired by an IWD member sharing her actual experiences as a Pan Am stewardess in the 1970s. IWD invited comments on career experiences then and now.

 

As ABC introduced its new TV series Pan Am, IWD member Mary provided us with a reality check as to how her experiences compared to those dramatized on television. IWD asked "What strikes you as being most different from today?" Members reponded with their own experiences -- not only as airline passengers -- but as career women in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and now. 

 

Read about Mary's Pan Am experience in Been There/Done That. 

 

Dialogue on Women and Careers -- Then and Now
336:

In response to the member who wrote about TV commercials she’s waiting to see that depict non-traditional roles for men and women – it reminds me of a very funny ad for being able to make purchases at a drugstore online and then picking them up (Walgreen's Web Pick-up perhaps?). The situation is that a woman (new mom) asks her husband to go to the drugstore for tampons. It’s very funny because it’s a classic situation with a new solution.

076:

I appreciated the comments of the young woman who wrote about her early career experiences (posted as #262 on 10/17/11). Not only has the number of women in the workplace changed dramatically, but I believe women now have peers who juggle family and work the way they do. It’s still not easy, I’m sure, but the sick child, the special events at school, the meeting that runs past the time to pick up from child care – at least women are not surrounded totally by men who have no empathy.

262:

First off, I have to admit, I have not watched the show Pan Am, nor did I catch the first few episodes of Playboy Club (it has been cancelled after only three episodes). I did see many of the promotions for both shows and took note of the nostalgic appeal both story lines were attempting to execute in the aim of getting viewers. I'm in my 30s so when I began working, it was not novel for women to be in the workplace. One of my first jobs involved working in the healthcare industry at a company where women far out numbered men - particularly on the marketing front, which is were I was. What seems different about the era Pan Am is depicting is that very novelty of women working, particularly their working in a glamorous industry full of innovation. Air travel was certainly not new, but the using the glamour of it as a differentiator was a new thing and companies like Pan Am were pioneers. Nothing, product or service, embodies glamour like the female form. We are beautiful creatures. One can find at least one beautiful trait on every woman, and on most there are myriad. Pan Am recognized that and used it to its branding advantage. What strikes me as particularly different in today's working world is that companies today shy away from harnessing the innate glamour of their female employees. Certainly many use female imagery to sell products and services to women and men alike, but few are hiring that glamour as their front line marketing communication and also using that image to deliver the company's services. Today, a company might hire models to show their products, but the models aren't also providing market research, accounting, housekeeping, etc. Behind the scenes are the rest of the company's employees, male and female, toiling away. The job of being glamorous is now a specialized function and no longer a requirement of being a female employee. Maybe requirement is the wrong word, but it seems to me being beautiful and glamorous is only important in terms of employment if one is seeking a job communicating that function. In that, it seems the world of today is much easier. I work in a construction company full of men and it's nice to know that the way I look was in no part why I was hired and if I mess up at work, being pretty certainly won't get me out of trouble. Conversely, it strikes me that in the past being a woman in the workplace was a bit more celebrated in that it was novel. Using sexuality was expected. I'm not basing that on any personal experience, just on the nostalgic appeal of shows like Mad Men and Pan Am. Today, we seem more afraid to acknowledge the inherent attraction that occurs between humans and use it to our and our companies' advantage. It's a dangerous line, to be sure, and one that must be walked with care in order to avoid difficult situations, however, attraction is a powerful tool and could be used effectively at times.

069:

I really enjoyed reading Mary's memories of Pan Am. It makes me a little nostalgic for the days when travel was exciting and special. We all dressed up to travel. I remember walking miles, in heels, carrying a suitcase without wheels. My "make-up case" must have weighed 10lbs empty. Since I wasn't limited to a quart size ziplock bag of cosmetics, it was 20lbs. of dead weight when filled to the rim. I actually bent my rings carrying the thing. We griped about the meals but they really weren't bad--much better than a soggy sandwich or peanuts. But then we come to the smoking. I'm now horrified that I contributed to the noxious fumes floating around the cabin. I don't know how the flight crew could stand it. It seemed to be part of the culture of that time and we thought nothing of it.

IWD:

I worked for an advertising agency in the early 1970s – about 5-10 years after the Mad Men (TV show) era – and I was one of only two women in a 35-person “creative group” of writers, art directors, and producers (of TV commercials). A common approach to creating advertising was to pair a writer and an art director as a “team.” My first partner was, of course, the other woman in the group and the men in the group looked to us for “all things woman.” One of our products was a popular laundry detergent , and the men in my group treated me like an expert – when, in fact, I was single and not at all interested in laundry. I actually felt that, at some stages, being a woman was an advantage, because the agency execs knew they needed women – if only to refute charges of chauvinism – so they were ready to provide a lot of opportunities. Did people drink and smoke in the office as they do in Mad Men? In my era, they didn’t drink openly in the office, but the two-hour, two-martini lunch in nearby restaurants was commonplace. And meetings were filled with smokers. Were there smart but under-appreciated secretaries like Joan in Mad Men? I knew a number of very smart women who tried to “get their foot in the agency door” by starting as secretaries. Most of them remained secretaries, except for one, who rose to account management and finally an agency leadership position.

114:

What a fun read re Pan Am and Mary's experience(s). Amazing story and we (most of us) have lived long enough to remember................we have seen so much in our lifetimes. Steve Jobs comes to mind and the technology we have seen developed.

281:

Shortly after reading the “Been There/Done That” about Pan Am, I took a Southwest flight – and my flight attendant was a 6-foot, 200-pound man with a long grey ponytail…wearing khaki shorts…and NO white gloves and, I’m sure, NO girdle!

031:

Opportunities for women in the USA have greatly expanded during my lifetime, however, I still wish for more balance in the contribution men & women make to our society. I believe Americans continue to socialize children in a way that perpetuates stereotypical roles. Specifically, men are socialized to be financially responsible for "the wife & kids." Hence, men choose their career based on earning potential, not personal dreams. Women are socialized to assume that once married, they are "entitled" to their spouse’s earnings; and will be expected to "raise the children." This can result in these outcomes: A young man who dreams of becoming a cellist selects a different path because, as a musician, he wouldn't make enough money to "support a family." A young woman never pursues her dream of being an architect because she isn't sure how she'll "raise the children." It also results in women staying in unhappy marital relationships because of their husband's earnings. I've always said, "Love the man; Never love the man's money.“ I wish that all children were raised to pursue their dream, and be taught they have an obligation to financially support themselves. Then if they marry, they can tailor the arrangement to fit their needs and compromise as a couple. I see evidence roles are changing: Fathers pushing infants in strollers in the grocery (sans Mother!) Men carrying diaper bags. Mothers being deployed in the Military, while fathers stay behind with the kids. Women joining the Police and Firefighters, very traditional male occupations. Now I'm waiting to see TV commercials with: …a man raving about a kitchen cleaning product …a woman pitching a brand of car wax.

136:

It's always interesting to think about women and their career opportunities and experiences, but it's one of those issues that seems to fade in and fade out of our consciousness. The personal story about a career as a flight attendant made me think more about it. Then I saw an editorial in the New York Times called "The Glass Ceiling" about how women are faring as lawyers. We all know that three women sit on the Supreme Court -- that's 25% of the judges. That's about the same for federal judges (22%) and state judges (26%). The typical path of a lawyer is also interesting: women make up one-half of new law school graduates but are less than one-third of practicing lawyers. As they climb the hierarchy in their firms..guess what? The percentage drops. About 45% of law firm associates are women but only 15% of equity partners -- and just 6% of equity partners at the 200 largest firms. As for pay, the median income of female lawyers is 74% of what men earn.



Note from IWD: Speaking of women’s options and choices: The November 2011 issue of The Atlantic features an article by Kate Bolick about the changing role of marriage in women’ s lives evidenced by trends such as: In 1960, the median age for marriage was 23 for men and 20 for women; today it is 28 and 26 In 1960, more than 50 percent of people age 18 to 19 were married; today it’s 22 percent. The author relates these trends, in part, to changing educational and employment options for women.

336:

In response to the member who wrote about TV commercials she’s waiting to see that depict non-traditional roles for men and women – it reminds me of a very funny ad for being able to make purchases at a drugstore online and then picking them up (Walgreen's Web Pick-up perhaps?). The situation is that a woman (new mom) asks her husband to go to the drugstore for tampons. It’s very funny because it’s a classic situation with a new solution.

076:

I appreciated the comments of the young woman who wrote about her early career experiences (posted as #262 on 10/17/11). Not only has the number of women in the workplace changed dramatically, but I believe women now have peers who juggle family and work the way they do. It’s still not easy, I’m sure, but the sick child, the special events at school, the meeting that runs past the time to pick up from child care – at least women are not surrounded totally by men who have no empathy.

262:

First off, I have to admit, I have not watched the show Pan Am, nor did I catch the first few episodes of Playboy Club (it has been cancelled after only three episodes). I did see many of the promotions for both shows and took note of the nostalgic appeal both story lines were attempting to execute in the aim of getting viewers. I'm in my 30s so when I began working, it was not novel for women to be in the workplace. One of my first jobs involved working in the healthcare industry at a company where women far out numbered men - particularly on the marketing front, which is were I was. What seems different about the era Pan Am is depicting is that very novelty of women working, particularly their working in a glamorous industry full of innovation. Air travel was certainly not new, but the using the glamour of it as a differentiator was a new thing and companies like Pan Am were pioneers. Nothing, product or service, embodies glamour like the female form. We are beautiful creatures. One can find at least one beautiful trait on every woman, and on most there are myriad. Pan Am recognized that and used it to its branding advantage. What strikes me as particularly different in today's working world is that companies today shy away from harnessing the innate glamour of their female employees. Certainly many use female imagery to sell products and services to women and men alike, but few are hiring that glamour as their front line marketing communication and also using that image to deliver the company's services. Today, a company might hire models to show their products, but the models aren't also providing market research, accounting, housekeeping, etc. Behind the scenes are the rest of the company's employees, male and female, toiling away. The job of being glamorous is now a specialized function and no longer a requirement of being a female employee. Maybe requirement is the wrong word, but it seems to me being beautiful and glamorous is only important in terms of employment if one is seeking a job communicating that function. In that, it seems the world of today is much easier. I work in a construction company full of men and it's nice to know that the way I look was in no part why I was hired and if I mess up at work, being pretty certainly won't get me out of trouble. Conversely, it strikes me that in the past being a woman in the workplace was a bit more celebrated in that it was novel. Using sexuality was expected. I'm not basing that on any personal experience, just on the nostalgic appeal of shows like Mad Men and Pan Am. Today, we seem more afraid to acknowledge the inherent attraction that occurs between humans and use it to our and our companies' advantage. It's a dangerous line, to be sure, and one that must be walked with care in order to avoid difficult situations, however, attraction is a powerful tool and could be used effectively at times.

069:

I really enjoyed reading Mary's memories of Pan Am. It makes me a little nostalgic for the days when travel was exciting and special. We all dressed up to travel. I remember walking miles, in heels, carrying a suitcase without wheels. My "make-up case" must have weighed 10lbs empty. Since I wasn't limited to a quart size ziplock bag of cosmetics, it was 20lbs. of dead weight when filled to the rim. I actually bent my rings carrying the thing. We griped about the meals but they really weren't bad--much better than a soggy sandwich or peanuts. But then we come to the smoking. I'm now horrified that I contributed to the noxious fumes floating around the cabin. I don't know how the flight crew could stand it. It seemed to be part of the culture of that time and we thought nothing of it.

IWD:

I worked for an advertising agency in the early 1970s – about 5-10 years after the Mad Men (TV show) era – and I was one of only two women in a 35-person “creative group” of writers, art directors, and producers (of TV commercials). A common approach to creating advertising was to pair a writer and an art director as a “team.” My first partner was, of course, the other woman in the group and the men in the group looked to us for “all things woman.” One of our products was a popular laundry detergent , and the men in my group treated me like an expert – when, in fact, I was single and not at all interested in laundry. I actually felt that, at some stages, being a woman was an advantage, because the agency execs knew they needed women – if only to refute charges of chauvinism – so they were ready to provide a lot of opportunities. Did people drink and smoke in the office as they do in Mad Men? In my era, they didn’t drink openly in the office, but the two-hour, two-martini lunch in nearby restaurants was commonplace. And meetings were filled with smokers. Were there smart but under-appreciated secretaries like Joan in Mad Men? I knew a number of very smart women who tried to “get their foot in the agency door” by starting as secretaries. Most of them remained secretaries, except for one, who rose to account management and finally an agency leadership position.

114:

What a fun read re Pan Am and Mary's experience(s). Amazing story and we (most of us) have lived long enough to remember................we have seen so much in our lifetimes. Steve Jobs comes to mind and the technology we have seen developed.

281:

Shortly after reading the “Been There/Done That” about Pan Am, I took a Southwest flight – and my flight attendant was a 6-foot, 200-pound man with a long grey ponytail…wearing khaki shorts…and NO white gloves and, I’m sure, NO girdle!

031:

Opportunities for women in the USA have greatly expanded during my lifetime, however, I still wish for more balance in the contribution men & women make to our society. I believe Americans continue to socialize children in a way that perpetuates stereotypical roles. Specifically, men are socialized to be financially responsible for "the wife & kids." Hence, men choose their career based on earning potential, not personal dreams. Women are socialized to assume that once married, they are "entitled" to their spouse’s earnings; and will be expected to "raise the children." This can result in these outcomes: A young man who dreams of becoming a cellist selects a different path because, as a musician, he wouldn't make enough money to "support a family." A young woman never pursues her dream of being an architect because she isn't sure how she'll "raise the children." It also results in women staying in unhappy marital relationships because of their husband's earnings. I've always said, "Love the man; Never love the man's money.“ I wish that all children were raised to pursue their dream, and be taught they have an obligation to financially support themselves. Then if they marry, they can tailor the arrangement to fit their needs and compromise as a couple. I see evidence roles are changing: Fathers pushing infants in strollers in the grocery (sans Mother!) Men carrying diaper bags. Mothers being deployed in the Military, while fathers stay behind with the kids. Women joining the Police and Firefighters, very traditional male occupations. Now I'm waiting to see TV commercials with: …a man raving about a kitchen cleaning product …a woman pitching a brand of car wax.

136:

It's always interesting to think about women and their career opportunities and experiences, but it's one of those issues that seems to fade in and fade out of our consciousness. The personal story about a career as a flight attendant made me think more about it. Then I saw an editorial in the New York Times called "The Glass Ceiling" about how women are faring as lawyers. We all know that three women sit on the Supreme Court -- that's 25% of the judges. That's about the same for federal judges (22%) and state judges (26%). The typical path of a lawyer is also interesting: women make up one-half of new law school graduates but are less than one-third of practicing lawyers. As they climb the hierarchy in their firms..guess what? The percentage drops. About 45% of law firm associates are women but only 15% of equity partners -- and just 6% of equity partners at the 200 largest firms. As for pay, the median income of female lawyers is 74% of what men earn.



Note from IWD: Speaking of women’s options and choices: The November 2011 issue of The Atlantic features an article by Kate Bolick about the changing role of marriage in women’ s lives evidenced by trends such as: In 1960, the median age for marriage was 23 for men and 20 for women; today it is 28 and 26 In 1960, more than 50 percent of people age 18 to 19 were married; today it’s 22 percent. The author relates these trends, in part, to changing educational and employment options for women.

136:

It's always interesting to think about women and their career opportunities and experiences, but it's one of those issues that seems to fade in and fade out of our consciousness. The personal story about a career as a flight attendant made me think more about it. Then I saw an editorial in the New York Times called "The Glass Ceiling" about how women are faring as lawyers. We all know that three women sit on the Supreme Court -- that's 25% of the judges. That's about the same for federal judges (22%) and state judges (26%). The typical path of a lawyer is also interesting: women make up one-half of new law school graduates but are less than one-third of practicing lawyers. As they climb the hierarchy in their firms..guess what? The percentage drops. About 45% of law firm associates are women but only 15% of equity partners -- and just 6% of equity partners at the 200 largest firms. As for pay, the median income of female lawyers is 74% of what men earn.



Note from IWD: Speaking of women’s options and choices: The November 2011 issue of The Atlantic features an article by Kate Bolick about the changing role of marriage in women’ s lives evidenced by trends such as: In 1960, the median age for marriage was 23 for men and 20 for women; today it is 28 and 26 In 1960, more than 50 percent of people age 18 to 19 were married; today it’s 22 percent. The author relates these trends, in part, to changing educational and employment options for women.

031:

Opportunities for women in the USA have greatly expanded during my lifetime, however, I still wish for more balance in the contribution men & women make to our society. I believe Americans continue to socialize children in a way that perpetuates stereotypical roles. Specifically, men are socialized to be financially responsible for "the wife & kids." Hence, men choose their career based on earning potential, not personal dreams. Women are socialized to assume that once married, they are "entitled" to their spouse’s earnings; and will be expected to "raise the children." This can result in these outcomes: A young man who dreams of becoming a cellist selects a different path because, as a musician, he wouldn't make enough money to "support a family." A young woman never pursues her dream of being an architect because she isn't sure how she'll "raise the children." It also results in women staying in unhappy marital relationships because of their husband's earnings. I've always said, "Love the man; Never love the man's money.“ I wish that all children were raised to pursue their dream, and be taught they have an obligation to financially support themselves. Then if they marry, they can tailor the arrangement to fit their needs and compromise as a couple. I see evidence roles are changing: Fathers pushing infants in strollers in the grocery (sans Mother!) Men carrying diaper bags. Mothers being deployed in the Military, while fathers stay behind with the kids. Women joining the Police and Firefighters, very traditional male occupations. Now I'm waiting to see TV commercials with: …a man raving about a kitchen cleaning product …a woman pitching a brand of car wax.

281:

Shortly after reading the “Been There/Done That” about Pan Am, I took a Southwest flight – and my flight attendant was a 6-foot, 200-pound man with a long grey ponytail…wearing khaki shorts…and NO white gloves and, I’m sure, NO girdle!

114:

What a fun read re Pan Am and Mary's experience(s). Amazing story and we (most of us) have lived long enough to remember................we have seen so much in our lifetimes. Steve Jobs comes to mind and the technology we have seen developed.

IWD:

I worked for an advertising agency in the early 1970s – about 5-10 years after the Mad Men (TV show) era – and I was one of only two women in a 35-person “creative group” of writers, art directors, and producers (of TV commercials). A common approach to creating advertising was to pair a writer and an art director as a “team.” My first partner was, of course, the other woman in the group and the men in the group looked to us for “all things woman.” One of our products was a popular laundry detergent , and the men in my group treated me like an expert – when, in fact, I was single and not at all interested in laundry. I actually felt that, at some stages, being a woman was an advantage, because the agency execs knew they needed women – if only to refute charges of chauvinism – so they were ready to provide a lot of opportunities. Did people drink and smoke in the office as they do in Mad Men? In my era, they didn’t drink openly in the office, but the two-hour, two-martini lunch in nearby restaurants was commonplace. And meetings were filled with smokers. Were there smart but under-appreciated secretaries like Joan in Mad Men? I knew a number of very smart women who tried to “get their foot in the agency door” by starting as secretaries. Most of them remained secretaries, except for one, who rose to account management and finally an agency leadership position.

069:

I really enjoyed reading Mary's memories of Pan Am. It makes me a little nostalgic for the days when travel was exciting and special. We all dressed up to travel. I remember walking miles, in heels, carrying a suitcase without wheels. My "make-up case" must have weighed 10lbs empty. Since I wasn't limited to a quart size ziplock bag of cosmetics, it was 20lbs. of dead weight when filled to the rim. I actually bent my rings carrying the thing. We griped about the meals but they really weren't bad--much better than a soggy sandwich or peanuts. But then we come to the smoking. I'm now horrified that I contributed to the noxious fumes floating around the cabin. I don't know how the flight crew could stand it. It seemed to be part of the culture of that time and we thought nothing of it.

262:

First off, I have to admit, I have not watched the show Pan Am, nor did I catch the first few episodes of Playboy Club (it has been cancelled after only three episodes). I did see many of the promotions for both shows and took note of the nostalgic appeal both story lines were attempting to execute in the aim of getting viewers. I'm in my 30s so when I began working, it was not novel for women to be in the workplace. One of my first jobs involved working in the healthcare industry at a company where women far out numbered men - particularly on the marketing front, which is were I was. What seems different about the era Pan Am is depicting is that very novelty of women working, particularly their working in a glamorous industry full of innovation. Air travel was certainly not new, but the using the glamour of it as a differentiator was a new thing and companies like Pan Am were pioneers. Nothing, product or service, embodies glamour like the female form. We are beautiful creatures. One can find at least one beautiful trait on every woman, and on most there are myriad. Pan Am recognized that and used it to its branding advantage. What strikes me as particularly different in today's working world is that companies today shy away from harnessing the innate glamour of their female employees. Certainly many use female imagery to sell products and services to women and men alike, but few are hiring that glamour as their front line marketing communication and also using that image to deliver the company's services. Today, a company might hire models to show their products, but the models aren't also providing market research, accounting, housekeeping, etc. Behind the scenes are the rest of the company's employees, male and female, toiling away. The job of being glamorous is now a specialized function and no longer a requirement of being a female employee. Maybe requirement is the wrong word, but it seems to me being beautiful and glamorous is only important in terms of employment if one is seeking a job communicating that function. In that, it seems the world of today is much easier. I work in a construction company full of men and it's nice to know that the way I look was in no part why I was hired and if I mess up at work, being pretty certainly won't get me out of trouble. Conversely, it strikes me that in the past being a woman in the workplace was a bit more celebrated in that it was novel. Using sexuality was expected. I'm not basing that on any personal experience, just on the nostalgic appeal of shows like Mad Men and Pan Am. Today, we seem more afraid to acknowledge the inherent attraction that occurs between humans and use it to our and our companies' advantage. It's a dangerous line, to be sure, and one that must be walked with care in order to avoid difficult situations, however, attraction is a powerful tool and could be used effectively at times.

076:

I appreciated the comments of the young woman who wrote about her early career experiences (posted as #262 on 10/17/11). Not only has the number of women in the workplace changed dramatically, but I believe women now have peers who juggle family and work the way they do. It’s still not easy, I’m sure, but the sick child, the special events at school, the meeting that runs past the time to pick up from child care – at least women are not surrounded totally by men who have no empathy.

336:

In response to the member who wrote about TV commercials she’s waiting to see that depict non-traditional roles for men and women – it reminds me of a very funny ad for being able to make purchases at a drugstore online and then picking them up (Walgreen's Web Pick-up perhaps?). The situation is that a woman (new mom) asks her husband to go to the drugstore for tampons. It’s very funny because it’s a classic situation with a new solution.

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