Jessica Sink, Columnist

“If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.”

Mad Men’s leading ad man Donald Draper knows the importance of the art of persuasion.

In his 1960s world of advertising, business is all about strategic communication, determining the best message for a brand and then convincing consumers to believe it.

The hit show Mad Men recreates New York’s classic age of drinking, smoking, sex and drugs within the realm of marketing and advertising.

After a long break, the series returns to its fifth season this month, and continues the saga of American branding and the philandering lives of its ad men.

Although men dominated business in the era Mad Men portrays, women were slowly making advances in the ad world as well, asserting their own creativity.

Real “ad women” of the time existed, rising above sexist attitudes to fight for recognition.

These women paved the way for more gender equality in the advertising industry.

Today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold two-thirds of the 71,000 advertising and promotions managerial jobs. They also hold nearly half, 46 percent, of advertising sales jobs and 43 percent of the marketing and sales manager positions.

Despite what many men might think, the female sex can be creative and persuasive.

Women have overcome significant obstacles to achieve levels of success in many different areas, not just advertising.

Labor Department wage statistics report that in forensic science, medicine and managerial positions, women on average, earn more than men.

This trend has revitalized discussion of gender in the workplace.

Currently, about 40 percent of working wives out-earn their husbands.

In America, opportunities for women have certainly increased since the 1960s, and the sexism portrayed in Mad Men is no longer the status quo.

Women didn’t like what was being said and so they changed the conversation, asserting their rights for better equality. There are still debates about issues, but women toady have more opportunity to pursue successful careers than ever before.

They historically fought to break the bonds of dependency and strove for independence.

To be responsible for one’s own future and not rely on anyone else for security was one of the greatest achievements for women in the 20th Century.

Women might encounter certain challenges in male dominated professions, but gender should not be a deterrent or handicap.

It is ultimately up to women to effectively utilize their talents to earn success.

As Don Draper said in Mad Men, “You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself.”

Mad Men is more a soap opera than a marketing lesson, but it does illustrate the branding process and the creation of promotional campaigns.

For any communication or marketing student, it is an interesting way to see how products were advertised in the 1960s.

What is most significant though is seeing how far women have come since that era.

Advertising is all about persuasion, and women have shown they can be masters of the art.

It is no longer just a man’s world, but a woman’s world, as well.

Today, regardless of sex, you alone have the power to determine your future.

Work hard, stand up for what you believe, and if you don’t like what is being said, it’s time to change the conversation.