Here She Comes….Miss Prudential?
This is a true story.
In 1968 I was graduated from Rutgers near the top of my class in the teeth of the Viet Nam War. Having no idea what to do—I was a political science major who turned down a full scholarship to Rutgers Law—the placement director found a “hot shot” management job at Prudential Insurance in Newark. At that time, I learned it was very rare to find a woman in any position higher than “assistant manager” and most were between 18 and 22, basically waiting to marry their partners or trying to find husbands.
Once a year, the Miss Prudential Contest was held. Each division could nominate one woman in what was solely a beauty contest. On the day of the event, people jammed into a large conference room that actually had a runway-like stage with three sides. The women would walk out in high heels and bathing suits, one at a time and pirouetting in the middle, and three Prudential executives would cast votes. The woman chosen was the Eastern Home Office “hostess” for the next year, welcoming agents, clients and local politicians to events held in headquarters.
I am not making this up. No one thought it was unusual, and women lobbied to be nominated. People don’t believe me when I relate this experience because most people simply see history as a predecessor to how they think today and as a precursor to how they’ll think tomorrow. We are not in a snapshot, we are in a motion picture, and if you don’t understand what’s happened earlier, in context, it’s hard to make sense of where you are at the moment or what’s likely to happen next.