It’s only been a little while and I’m already missing Joan and Peggy from Mad Men. I can tell because their roles this season made me think about the archetypes of women in the workplace and how some of them have played out in popular culture.
This of course was prompted by Joan’s power play and Peggy’s uneasy flirtation/acceptance of power.
Here in the 21st century, women who wield power in business are placed into one of a few categories. You can add more.These are just the ones that came to mind:
Lifestyle Goddesses: Just to put it out there, Oprah is central figure of this archetype, as one of the most valuable brands in the world, and as of March, her net worth was $2.7 billion. Way to Live your best life, O! I sat through a really long, tedious Paul Mooney set where he basically went off on Oprah—a lot of people hate the way she’s revived her popular book club, the way she’s always on the cover of her magazine, etc. “No one person should have all that power,” Mooney said. Cue the Kanye West track. Other women who are living the dream and building brands along the way include Iyanla Vanzant, Marianne Williamson, Brene Brown and of course, Martha Stewart.
Corporate ladies: These are women in our culture who we know little about, in comparison to Oprah, and otherwise. I’m thinking here of Sheryl Sandberg, Carly Fiorina and potentially the character of Peggy Olson. They are women in male contexts, usually without business narratives that take into account their expressions of sexuality, how they balance work, career ambitions and family and the link. They are almost like politicians in the sense that their bios in our culture don’t deviate from a relatively safe script.
Television mavens: Murphy Brown was the first of these examples. I miss her. Modern day examples include women in front and behind the cameras/web cameras, including Issa Rae of Awkward Black Girl fame, Shonda Rhimes, Lena Dunham, Suze Orman, Diane Sawyer, and Katie Couric.