I’ve never been a reader of obituaries but as I was leafing through a recent WSJ I noticed a compelling article about Jane Maas, who was 86 when she died in November of this year.
The title of the piece was “Plucky Woman in Advertising Thrived in ‘Mad Men’ Era.” I was a fan of the Mad Men series for a while – until it got too racy for my tastes and I stopped watching. But the show was interesting for a psychologist to view, in many respects – one of which was that the action took place during a place and a time that I had known nothing about. Maas earned her spurs at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather with what she called her “husband-pleasing strategy.” That is, Maas designed advertising that sold coffee to housewives of the time by convincing them that their husbands would love the coffee brand that she was selling, with the advertising designed in such a way that it compelled the women to stick with the brand “forever,” as Maas has said of that time in her career. Feminists hated her for the advertising approach. Regardless, she persisted and rose to the position of senior vice president at Wells Rich Greene and, later, president of Mueller Jordan Weiss (remember, this is in the 1960s/70s). She has said that her priorities were: “Job first, husband second, children third.” And she engaged a long-serving nanny and housekeeper to ensure that the children were given good care. She has confirmed that, as in the “Mad Men” series, people in the agencies did, indeed, chain smoke, toss back cocktails and hop into extramarital affairs. At one point, a male boss pressured Maas to engage in an affair and she has reported that, “You were expected to handle things like that without making a fuss.” Gosh – I wonder how she managed without the “MeToo” movement – perhaps she just said, “No” – like so many people of her age did. As Maas has acknowledged, one doesn’t have to make a fuss and create splashy headlines to bring a situation to resolution. It’s always up to women of courage to express opinions and provide the determining factors that make things happen the way they would like them to. And, I’ve noticed that, with the MeToo efforts being put forth in recent years, male CEOs are reluctant to hire women these days, are adverse to being in the same room with them alone, and refuse to travel on business trips with them. One prominent CEO said, “What if I made just the most innocent and casual remark in front of a woman, that she took the wrong way – why would I want to risk it – and my career?” Why, indeed – see how far women have come – I think we can identify that as one step forward, twenty steps backward.