Mad Men’s final season will be back on our TV screens in less than 3 weeks. Like any fan, I’ve been binge watching all 6 seasons on Netflix all winter. As I powered through Mad Men seasons 1-6 on every available snow day, I started to realize that Peggy’s transformation is more than just good storytelling. She represents everything any woman in the working world is, once was, or aspires to be (I sure wouldn’t mind being a copy chief!). It doesn’t matter if it’s 1965 or 2015, and here are five reasons why:
1. Peggy Olson is not afraid to speak up/creative genius.
During a product test in season one her creativity shines through even behind a back wall of distracted ad men. “I don’t think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box.” It’s so important to express our ideas, even as the intern or the PR assistant, if we don’t speak up, we’ll only continue to fade into the background.
2. Peggy uses her femininity to her advantage.
The main job for most women in 1965 was to smile, look pretty, and answer the phone. Peggy Olson was a junior copywriter which was considered a “mans’ job.” One of Don’s mistresses Bobbie Barrett tells Peggy “Be a woman [doing a man’s job.] It’s powerful business when done correctly.” After that conversation, she heeded Bobbie’s words. When the guys forget to inform Peggy about an after-hours Playtex meeting, she dolls up for the event at meets them at the Burlesque Club, confident and cool.
3. Peggy doesn’t conform to society’s ideals of women.
I admire how Peggy always stays true to her own ideals. By living her life, she rebels against society’s stereotypes of what a woman is supposed to be: giving away her baby (also out of wedlock), moving to Manhattan on her own and focusing on her career instead of marriage. Peggy’s journey is inspiring to any woman today who aspires to become a CEO and doesn’t care who’s making dinner for the kids.
4. Peggy is a fearless worker.
She is never afraid to take a risk for her career or employer. In season 4, when Sterling Cooper Draper Price was going under she took opportunities into her own hands (with account manager Ken Cosgrove’s help) to land the Topaz account. Unbeknownst to the partners and Don, Peggy created a successful strategy and landed the account over the holiday weekend.
5. She knows when it’s time to leave a job.
There’s always going to be that job, boss, or mentor that has been so good to us leaving never even crosses our mind. Then a moment happens, whether it’s your boss throwing money in your face (in a rude, not so much ‘Good job’ kind of way), taking credit for your ideas and suddenly you realize you won’t be able to grow if you stay in this position. Peggy Olson realized it was time to move on by the end of season 5 and that she couldn’t shine in Don’s shadow. As a professional woman, I’d argue this was the bravest moment of the entire season.
“I want you to know that, the day you saw something in me; my whole life changed. And since then, it’s been my privilege to not only be at your side but, to be treated like a protégé and for you to be my mentor, my champion.”
“But, I think I’ve reached a point, where it’s time for me to have a new experience.”
When watching Mad Men, you don’t have to look too deep beyond the surface to see how Peggy Olson can be any working person’s hero. It’s especially important to remember the past, live in the present, and prepare for the future. I’m confident if Mad Men stayed on for 2 more seasons (Come on Weiner and AMC!) Peggy Olson would become the CEO of Sterling Cooper & Partners, and everyone would have glorious 80s hair.
Even in 2015, I take everything I’ve learned from her career on Mad Men and try to apply it to my every day tasks. Although Mad Men is ending this year, Peggy Olson’s story will serve as an inspiration for professional woman in the decades to come.