A Changing Workforce
One of my favorite TV shows in the past ten years of television — an impressive decade with shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, and so many others! — was hands-down, Mad Men. This program was a fictionalized account of a war veteran in the 1950s who took on a fake identity and built another life as an advertising executive. While the various characters were definitely interesting to watch over the span of the show’s several seasons, and trust me, several of these characters changed radically … the most entertaining aspect of Mad Men was its setting in the past.
As a show set in the 1950s, Mad Men was able to portray a different America, an America before many fundamental changes were made to the fabric of our society. It was sometimes hard to recognize that the country in the show was the same as my country, just a few decades ago! Technology and culture have changed SO drastically in the following decades, it seems unreal.
One of the biggest changes to the workforce was documented in the show: the prevalence of female workers in industries across the board. In the second World War, of course, many women were required to take over jobs that were deserted when their husbands, brothers, fathers, etc. went to serve in the military. As a result, after the Second World War, there was a sudden abundance of qualified female workers wanting to participate in the economy more directly than prior to the war. Secretary and other administrative positions became increasingly populated by female workers, and in Mad Men you can see the workplace adapting to become more hospitable to female and male workers.
It is also really interesting to see how technology adapts in the show. Advertising has also been a cutting-edge field, using data and demographic metrics to target consumers in such a specific way that political campaigns or other data-driven fields could only dream of. And advertising executives on the show are just as cutting-edge as advertising creatives were in the real world. The program’s characters often devise marketing campaigns that rely on new abilities of televisions or other technology — I find it SO fascinating to think that an entire industry adapted to new formats, like television or the Internet, so quickly.
The advertising industry — on Mad Men or in the real world — is by no means the only industry that adapted to new technology in order to craft better marketing campaigns or retain more customers. In fact, one of the premier industries in adapting to changing cultural norms and improving technology is the legal industry. Similar in status and profitability to advertising, the adaptive nature of the legal business has created entire parallel industries such as legal conversion experts that solely work to change potential but hesitant clients into trusted customers of a firm. Just as I found the changes made in the advertising industry interesting to watch, I too think it is really fascinating to research the recent changes in the legal business. Perhaps look out for a future post about this subject!