Women were just entering the workplace in numbers during the 1960s. Their place was primarily in the clerical and secretarial ranks. Female managers, much less executives, were rare, as were women in non-traditional jobs such as police officers, fire fighters, and construction workers. Secretaries were expected to make their male bosses coffee, do their shopping and run their errands. Today, if you tell a woman in the workplace she looks beautiful, ten suits from the office of EEO pounce on you for sexual harassment. Back then, the woman simply said: "Thank you" and went on with her day feeling a little uplifted.
Virtually all modern-day businesses have a policy against drinking on the job. As seen on Mad Men, drinking was not only permitted, but encouraged as a way of relaxing clients or just winding down at the end of a rough day. The three-Martini lunch was commonplace, and businessmen were crushed when the IRS clamped down on writing off this perk as a legitimate expense. Office Christmas parties were out of control, with hard liquor flowing freely by 10 am. Not much business got done on those days, as workers unaccustomed to drinking and unable to handle their booze were too busy trying to Xerox their bare asses to the accompaniment of much hilarity.
Everybody smoked. Offices and conference rooms had ashtrays and matches on every table. Cigarette vending machines were in every lobby. Smoking was considered sophisticated in those days, a notion perpetuated by the boys on Madison Avenue. Movie stars, athletes, even doctors were featured in cigarette ads extolling the virtues of smoking cigarettes. A haze of smoke hung over every meeting, and no morning could begin without that hot cup of coffee and the first cigarette of the day. Ahhhh. In today's "smoke free" business environment, smokers are treated like criminals. You see them huddled together, freezing in the cold outside offices all over the city, sucking down those Marlboros like haunted junkies.
The manner of dress was another story. In offices, women wore modest dresses or blouses and skirts. Nylon stockings, sensible shoes and minimal jewelry were mandatory. Makeup was lightly and tastefully applied. If you showed up looking like Elvira, you were simply sent home. In offices, men wore suits and ties, period. In some companies, like the anal IBM before they collapsed, men were required to wear certain colors of suits, and only white shirts and conservative ties. Snap-brim fedora hats, shined wing tip shoes and black dress socks completed the uniform. They never heard of "Casual Friday" but if they did, it would mean men were free to go wild and wear striped neckties!
The workplace of today may be safe, sober and offer equal opportunity for all, it just doesn't look like much fun.
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