Working Women Lessons from 'Downton Abbey'

03/04/2013 06:23 pm ET Updated May 04, 2013
This undated publicity photo provided by PBS shows Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, left, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Cr
This undated publicity photo provided by PBS shows Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, left, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, from the TV series, "Downton Abbey." The third season premiere airs in the U.S. on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 on PBS. (AP Photo/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE, Nick Briggs)

"Downton Abbey" has captured the attention of millions of Americans. While set back in the early 20th century, there are many lessons that modern working women can learn from this popular series.

Men, marriage and money- On the show, The Earl of Grantham married a very wealthy American woman, and it is suggested it was initially for her money. She married him for his title and possibly love, and trusted him to manage her money well. However, Lord Grantham does not manage the money very well and the estate is in trouble. While times have changed, some women hold onto antiquated assumptions about men, marriage and money.

Lessons for single and married working women:

  • Pick your partner well. Understand the positives and negatives about your future partner. Do you really know each other?

  • If you have dual careers, discuss in advance how you see each other's role in the marriage. What are your expectations for your spouse and for yourself?
  • Financial struggles are frequently listed as one of the top reasons why couples divorce. Talk about money and shared expenses before you get married. Develop a budget for the household and for each other. Be sure that you both agree that if one person is more adept with money, regardless of gender, that person may be the main money manager.
  • Decide before you are married what is yours, what is his and what is ours. If inheritances are involved or if one spouse is bringing in more money to the marriage, or if stepchildren are to be taken care of, consider a legal premarital agreement.
  • Keep your own bank account -- just in case.
  • Hired help- "Downtown Abbey" is a very large estate that requires many servants to run it. The point the show vividly illustrates is that wealthy women and poor women, single and married, have to look out for their own interests.

    Lessons for working women:

    • Give yourself permission to have help and services. Most women were raised to clean, cook and run a family home at a time when women were not expected to work at an outside job. Most women today work outside the home. They often try to do it all by themselves.
    • Set up a chores schedule for each member of the family. Women say that one of the highest stressors in marriage is the division of chores between partners and children.

  • If the family budget can support it, bring in outside help for housecleaning and garden maintenance. Check out local resources for prepared meals that can be purchased. Develop a list of reliable nanny's to babysit so you can take a break.
  • Good help is hard to find so when you find it, pay well, praise them and hang on to them.
  • Women
    - "Downton Abbey" is a showcase of a variety dominant women: matriarchal granny, adoring mothers, meddling mother in-laws, fighting sisters and dedicated female servants.

    Lessons for working women:

    • Many women agree that the personal encouragement of mothers and grandmothers was often the key for them in building self confidence. (Women Lead, 2013, Lang Publishing)
  • Women today are valued by other women as leaders and role models. (Women Lead, 2013, Lang Publishing)
  • Pursue your career passion- "Downton Abbey" has shown us that women should pursue their work passion despite the pressure from society or family to do otherwise. The Grantham sisters are examples of women who have a diversity of passions and skills. Mary is destined to be the lady of the estate and a non-working spouse. Sybil became a nurse, and Edith is finding her way as a women's advocate and journalist. Even Matthew Crawley's mother, a doctor's widow, is exploring an encore career.

    Lesson for working women:

    You will be working for a long time, so take time to think about what you like to do and what you are good at. Can this be a career path?

    • Explore various career and work options to help determine what you like and don't like. Societal messaging about what you should do may not align with your inner desires. Society and people will come and go; you need to be true to yourself for the long haul.
  • Frequently ask yourself if you are happy with what you are doing. Make changes as needed.
  • Breakfast in bed- March is Women's History Month, and "Downton Abbey" is a celebration of women past and present. Married or not, have breakfast in bed.

    Visit Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti at or email her at