In the first chapter of her memoir, Painting Faces: The Art of Public Relations, Baruch alumna Frances F. Friedman (’48) writes about the intense propaganda that emerged in the fifties and sixties aimed to discourage women from working. The pressure, she writes, “made it extremely difficult for career-bent women to be taken seriously by others and to avoid their own sense of guilt for preferring career to home.”
This emerges as the primary issue of Friedman’s fascinating account, detailing her decades-long career in journalism, advertising, and marketing. She notes that she enrolled in City College downtown (now Baruch) after her father urged her to become an accountant. “The only woman in a class of men,” she writes. Her professor ultimately convinced her to try her hand at advertising–which turned out to be a welcome change for the numbers-averse Friedman.
After graduation, jobs as a journalist and copywriter soon followed, eventually leading her to a long and storied career in what she describes as a Mad Men-style world of advertising and public relations. Through the adversity, she worked her way up to become the head of CGI, a top public relations agency, and notes that the stigma against women persisted even at the highest levels:
“For one meeting, I brought two of my staff members with me, hoping that in time I’d be able to assign some of the work to them. One of the staff members was an older man who, according to Bond, looked more like my boss than an employee.
‘You know,’ he said, ‘I can’t believe all these people report to you.’
‘You mean,’ he continued, ‘if I came up to your office and asked to see the CEO, the secretary would lead me to the corner office and there, at a big desk, is the company president, a little five-foot tall girl–I mean woman–and it’s you?’
‘Well, I am the CEO, and I do occupy the corner office.’
He shook his head, still finding it hard to believe.”
Stories like this abound throughout Painting Faces, making it a particularly memorable and insightful read. She also mixes in fun and heartwarming stories about her family life and marriage to her husband, Cliff, detailing her family exploits, including moves to the suburbs of Long Island, back to New York City, and elsewhere.
For alumni looking to learn what life was like for some of the first women to break into the workplace, this is a must read. Purchase on Amazon here (and support the Baruch College Fund by purchasing through Amazon Smile).