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Why Peggy Olson from Mad Men is My Role Model

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Warning: the following article contains spoilers from the TV show Mad Men

Mad Men is a television show set primarily in the 1960s, focusing on an advertising firm and the lives of the people who work there. In its pilot episode, Margaret ‘Peggy’ Olson begins working for the infamous Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency as a secretary to the company’s hotshot creative director, Don Draper. The show grapples with sexism, racism and the American life in the 1960s and Peggy becomes one of the iconic female figures in the show who disrupt traditional norms and take a stand for their goals and aspirations.

Here are 5 reasons why Peggy Olson is my personal role model:

1. She knows what she wants

It is clear from the pilot episode that Peggy has joined Sterling Cooper because she wants to be the Creative Director. She is told by many people that only a handful of women manage to become copywriters, but she is adamant in her goal and works hard to finally achieve it.

2. She puts her career first

At the end of the first season, viewers (and Peggy) realise that her weight gain throughout the season has been because of an unplanned pregnancy. Having just started her job at Sterling Cooper and not wanting to give up her dream for a family she did not plan for, Peggy chooses to give her child up for adoption (as we learn in season 7). This point is inspiring for me given the time at which it occurred (the 1960s) and because it showed that she responsibly handled an unplanned pregnancy in order to maintain her true desire: her career.

3. She speaks her mind 

Peggy is surrounded by a group of men who often undermine her because she is a woman. As she climbs the corporate ladder and becomes more respected by her peers, she still speaks honestly when she disagrees with her colleagues and makes sure that her input is heard. While timid at first, Peggy eventually grows into an expert in her field and speaks freely when she knows an idea can be improved. 

4. She is strong

In season 1, Peggy decides that she will not be like one of the women crying in the office bathroom. She chooses to remain professsional at the office and not succumb to her distress. She does, however, show her pain when she is with friends or at home, showing that it’s okay to feel hurt and express it, but to choose the right moment for your breakdown.

5. She gets what she wants

After 7 seasons, Peggy finally achieves the position she has worked so hard for. For fans, it feels like her struggles were ours, and therefore her victory one we all celebrate with her. Her character development for a brilliant, inexperienced secretary to a (still) brilliant, accomplished creative director gives us all hope that we can overcome the personal and professional obstacles that seem to stop us from reaching our goal. But Peggy did it, and so can we.



Julia Naidoo is an English and Linguistics major at the University of Cape Town. She is the former co-Correspondent for the chapter as well as the former Senior Editor.