When the show Mad Men first premiered, I couldn’t watch it – not because I didn’t think it was well done, but because it captured a little too perfectly what it was like for women working at a large New York corporation in the 1960s. I began my career in 1967, and watching the show brought back memories of my own years of internal struggle, of learning how to be assertive and not defer to men. It was a difficult time to be a woman in the workforce.
I attended Barnard College, in New York City, where I was a math major. This was very unusual for a woman at that time. My advisors wanted me to get a PhD in pure math in order to teach, but I wasn’t interested. I’m too people-oriented. I wanted to go into business, but I didn’t have any role models of women in business positions. “Girls,” as we all called them, became teachers or secretaries if they chose to work. They did not have professional jobs. I decided I wanted to become a computer programmer; I had to get special approval to take computer courses at the Columbia School of Engineering while I worked toward my degree. I was 21 years old when I got my first job working in a research laboratory at Columbia University. It was 1967. I was the only woman in the office. (read more…)