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Would Peggy Olson make it in 2013's workplace?

June 25, 2013|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Elisabeth Moss, left, plays Peggy Olson on "Mad Men." She is seen in a scene with Kevin Rahm.
Elisabeth Moss, left, plays Peggy Olson on "Mad Men." She is… (Michael Yarish / AMC / Associated…)

Would the empowered Peggy Olson of 1968 be a victim of discrimination in 2013?

On Sunday’s season finale of AMC’s “Mad Men,” viewers watched Don Draper’s protege work through a holiday weekend while her colleagues with children attended to their families. But we didn’t feel bad for the single, childless career woman, nor did she feel bad for herself. There she was working in Don’s office, breaking gender stereotypes and enjoying her ever-growing power.

But times have changed.

Increasingly, women without kids are expected to pull double duty at the office, reports Marie Claire magazine. “It's the newest form of workplace discrimination,” writes Ayana Byrd. “Single women who carry an undue burden at the office, batting cleanup for their married-with-kids coworkers.” (That’s not to say women with children aren’t victims of gender discrimination. They struggle too.)

It’s one thing to celebrate Peggy as she works into the night by choice. She’s a trailblazer; history will thank her. It’s quite another to think of her wilting away in a cubicle, forced to work overtime because she doesn’t have children.

Commenting on the Marie Claire article, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte writes: “One reason it’s become acceptable to squeeze childless women for more work while indulging mothers is that it’s assumed that what goes around comes around. Women who are currently staying late so a co-worker can go to Timmy’s baseball game will eventually have their own kids and lean on the next gen of childless singles. But as increasing numbers of women opt out of the marriage-and-babies game altogether, that assumption can’t be counted on any longer.”

To level the playing field for all women, we have to change the culture, argues Bella DePaulo, author of “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.”

“Discriminatory practices in the workplace are not personal,” she writes in a piece for Psychology Today. “They are institutional. And they are wrong.”

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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier

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