The women of Mad Men
Photo: Frank Okenfels/AMC.
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What is time-specific, Veith says, is the way the ulterior motives are communicated. "There's more decorum about it now," she says. "People have trained themselves to hide it better. I've worked in many offices, and that stuff still goes on. It's just not as blatant, and women have learned to draw lines a little more strongly."

Both writers are quick to point out that while gender biases still exist in the workplace, they don't exist in their workplace. In the Mad Men writers' room, a great idea is a great idea, they say, no matter who came up with it. "We have a predominately female writing staff—women from their early 20s to their 50s—and plenty of female department heads and directors," Jacquemetton says. "[Show creator] Matt Weiner and [executive producer] Scott Hornbacher hire people they believe in, based on their talent and their experience. 'Can you capture this world? Can you bring great storytelling?'"

Much of that storytelling revolves around the three main female characters: Betty Draper (wife of main character Don Draper), an unhappy suburban housewife who's just learned she's pregnant; Joan Holloway, the sultry Sterling Cooper office manager who's always dreamed of a husband and white picket fence but is suddenly having second thoughts; and Peggy, the would-be careerwoman quietly climbing the agency's ladder.

All three seem to fit nicely into convenient 1960s boxes, but Jacquemetton says the fun is in showing the characters' true complexities. "Those are labels that we, as society, place on these three women," she says. "But we never talk about the characters in those terms in the writing room. Joan wants certain things, and we'll definitely discuss that she wants to move to the suburbs, she wants love. But they're people; they have different shadings. We don't think of them as, 'Okay, Joan's the sexy bombshell, so her storylines all have to be about using her sexuality to manipulate people.' We start with, 'This is a person who wants this...'"

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