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    Learn to see yourself as others do and become magnetic, magnanimous, and memorable! Savvy advice, specific examples, and tactical exercises to develop your presence—in months, not years.

  • Winner in the Business-Motivational category for 2012

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    "Great graduation present!"

    Inspired to extend a helping hand to ambitious women working in corporate America, a veteran executive offers honest, practical, slightly irreverent advice about navigating companies that are run and populated predominately by men: how to interpret their sometimes surprising behavior, avoid common mistakes, flourish with the good guys, deal with the bad guys, and nurture a wonderful, satisfying career in a non-traditional role.

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  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    The Spirit of the Discreet Guide
    FIRST PRINCIPLES
    The Facts of Life
    In and Out of the Men’s Room
    Tuning In and Dropping Out
    Hold It Right There, Lady
    Skeptical Spectacles and a Critical-Thinking Cap
    YOUR SISTAS AND YOU
    Whose Girl Are You?
    Taking Care
    You’re Different, and That’s Only Mostly Bad
    Impressions and the Real Thing
    Sistas
    EARLY MANEUVERS
    School Days
    Your First Company
    The Cubette
    NAVIGATION TIPS
    Guiding Lights
    The Big C’s: Competition, Challenge, and Conflict
    DANGER—FALLING COCONUTS
    Sit Down and Shut Up
    How Do You Get Anything Done?
    He Doesn’t Think You’re Very Smart
    But Don’t Be Dumb
    TOUCHY SUBJECTS
    After Hours
    One-on-One: Danger Zones
    Sex At Work
    GUYS, GUYS, GUYS
    The Big Guy
    The Good Guys
    International Guys
    The Messed-Up Ones
    Bad Guys
    Super Bad Guys
    YOU’RE A BIG GIRL NOW
    Managing—Between a Rock and a Hard Place
    Work—Why You’re Paid
    THE EXECUTIVE WOMAN’S DILEMMA
    What? I Can’t Hear You
    Courage
    Common Sense
    A Powerful Combination
    THE PRIDE OF THE LIONESS
    Power and Risk
    Leadership
    THE DIAMOND

My Reviews of Related Books

 

 

Special section on Job Hunting for The Pergola

Bolles, R. 2016. What Color Is Your Parachute? – 2017. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press

Selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, this classic began as a guide to selecting a career based on personality profiling (self-inflicted) and has grown into a full-on job hunting guide. You can argue with the simplistic advice or the lack of scientific foundation, but you can’t argue with the popularity.

Yate, M. 2012. Knock ’em Dead Job Interview. Avon: Adams Media

Again, some of this may be obvious, but it will help you get in the groove of responding positively and effectively to interview questions.

Lucht, J. 2001. Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+: Your Insider’s Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-Changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century. New York: Viceroy Press

This was the go-to guide for understanding different types of recruiters and how their business works. It is still valuable for that insight,  but the web-based aspects of job-hunting have advanced, so be aware of potentially dated material.

 

 

 

Special section on Business Travel for The Pergola

Margolis, C. 2012. Business Travel Success. New York: Morgan James Publishing

Carol has devoted considerable effort to dissecting business travel, including this book, her consulting company which specializes in travel issues, public speeches, and her website smartwomentravelers.com. I wish I could muster a more enthusiastic review of the book because it is certainly well-intentioned. I found her recommendations often too complicated however, resulting in too many types of luggage, too much stuff, and too much to think about. Traveling is a case of different strokes for different folks however, so if you want to sift through various considerations and draw your own conclusions, this book is a reasonable place to start.

Butler, B. 2014. The Business Travel Handbook. Wilsher Press

Bill is an experienced traveler, but many of his suggestions are sales-oriented, including a peculiar introduction about branding. Again, to pick up some ideas and draw your own conclusions, you might find this book useful.

Funny Author, A. 2016. At 35,000 Feet. Any Press

This is the book that I wish someone would write. Such strange intimate personal encounters take place at 35,000 feet, I’ve wondered if the altitude, the distance from our normal lives, or the reminder of our mortality causes people to open up in ways that they otherwise would not. Come on, someone out there, it’s time for you to write this book.

 

 

 

Although my book is not a research book, I read numerous related books on similar topics to see what was out there, good and bad, similar or extremely different. To my surprise, I found NO books that talked about working collaboratively with men. So I wrote one. I also kept some notes along the way about what I was finding…

Update: As I continue to read widely in this area, I have continued to post reviews. As the list is getting long, I will highlight a few here upfront that I consider “must-reads.” Those include The Price of Motherhood, Women Don’t Ask, Where the Girls Are, The Male Factor, Talking from 9 to 5, The Ten Year Nap (fiction), and Half the Sky (if you can stomach it).

Agonito, R. 1993. No more “nice girl:” Power, sexuality and success in the workplace. Holbrook: Bob Adams, Inc.

Solid presentation of the issues surrounding sexual harassment from an early feminist. The tone may appear a bit dated to younger readers, but the book reminds us that these problems have been around for a long time and don’t appear to be going away. Nice job.

Antilla, S. 2002. Tales from the boom-boom room: Women vs. Wall Street Princeton: Bloomberg Press

A fabulous piece of reporting about the complicated labyrinth of sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuits against Wall Street firms in the late 90s. The book is chock full of facts, legal intricacies, he said/she said counterpoints, dozens of names and characters, and yet ultimately what emerges is a sad story–that the plaintiffs were wronged and damaged and that largely their efforts were pointless. Over 25 years later, it is interesting to compare their complaints with those of Ellen Pao who is suing a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Although her firm is not a brokerage house on Wall Street such as those that Susan describes, it also operates in a male-dominated industry focused on money. The Wall Street women reported being called obscene names, of being groped and physically attacked, of having their clients stolen, being demoted and fired while Ellen complains of being pressured to have sex with a co-worker (which she did), being invited to dinner (which she declined), and receiving a book of erotic drawings (that she kept). I can’t find the comparison much cause for joy, but perhaps it is a reflection that the working environment has gotten slightly better for women. On the other hand, the contract that Ellen signed as part of her employment contains a mandatory arbitration clause just like the agreements signed by the Wall Street women. Although pressure was brought to prohibit those types of clauses so that an employee isn’t forced to give up her civil rights, it appears that some things haven’t changed.

Babcock, L., and Laschever, S. 2007. Women don’t ask. New York: Bantam Dell (a division of Random House) (Hardcover: 2003, Princeton University Press)

This well-researched book drives home the importance of negotiations for women in the workplace and how younger women are in fact less inclined to ask for what they want than the first generation of working women. Reluctantly, the authors describe the “social style” that I believe is most effective for current female executives. It seems to irritate them that women have to adopt a particular style to be successful, but I say: whatever works.

Barsh, J., Cranston, S. 2009 How remarkable women lead: The breakthrough model for work and life. New York: Crown Business (a division of Random House)

The tome-like aspect of the book will put off some readers which is unfortunate because its message is helpful and friendly. Written by two McKinsey women, perhaps it should have gone through a thorough editing process.

Book, E. 2000. Why the best man for the job is a woman. New York: Harper Collins

I find the tenor of these types of books a bit hard to swallow, but I know it resonates with some women. It’s great to be encouraging, but when claims of wonderful inherent female traits aren’t supported by women’s success in the corporate world, I don’t find them particularly convincing.

Brooks, D., and Brooks, L. 1997. Seven secrets of successful women: Success strategies of the women who have made it—and how you can follow their lead. New York: McGraw-Hill

Inoffensive, but didn’t add much to the literature. This title made me determined not to use “seven,” “six,” “secret” or “success” or any derivation of those words in my title.

Brzezinsky, M. 2011. Knowing your value: Women, money, and getting what you’re worth. New York: Weinstein

Mika spends considerable time complaining about how little she was paid as the co-host of Morning Joe, but mysteriously doesn’t share with us what her salary was. Could it be that she was worried that her salary would appear astronomical to us plebs? She also implies that the publication and publicity of her two books were part of her newly negotiated contract which could make a reader who had bought her book feel manipulated. Many of the quotes from others are interesting, but it’s too bad that Mika’s personal story doesn’t come off well.

Cockburn, C. 1991. In the way of women: Men’s resistance to sex equality in organizations. Ithaca: ILR (Industrial and Labor Relations Report) Press

Cynthia reports on four case studies she undertook in the UK in 1990 or so, exploring the progress toward gender parity in a retail company, government service, a local elected body, and a trade union. Although delightfully-written, her findings do not paint a pretty picture. They reinforce over and over how systemic patriarchy and capitalism benefit from women’s subordination. She explores subtle and interesting ideas regarding corporate exploitation of women’s sexuality, the defeat of feminism, how arguments that men and women are different, or the same, result in the same marginalization of women – intricate dissections of organizational and individual behavior that are a tribute to a fine intellect. I was surprised then when her chapter on “solutions” turns simplistically to legislation and enforcement: extension of the welfare state, 30-hour work weeks, and heavier penalties for discrimination. After she demonstrates a supreme understanding of the complexities behind gender discrimination, I did not expect her to resort to a magic wand.

Crittenden, A. [no relation] 2001. The price of motherhood: Why the most important job in the world is still the least valued. New York: Metropolitan Books

This very important book should be mandatory reading for all young American women and should certainly be included as a safety insert in those stupid bride magazines. Ann’s analyses and conclusions are irrefutable, profound, and beautifully articulated. An astonishingly good book.

Davies, M. (ed) 1978. Maternity: Letters from working women.New York: Norton

Anyone who thinks that birth control is not a health care issue should read this book. These letters from British working class women in 1914 recount their childbearing and economic history as part of an anecdotal study conducted by the Women’s Guild. They also remind us of the danger, drudgery, hopelessness, and spiraling poverty associated with excessive childbearing: “eleven children in thirteen years,” “five stillbirths,” “four children under the age of five,” “mother eats last,” “the poor mite finally succumbed at nine months,” “eight miscarriages.” No wonder that many of them allude to the relief that death would bring. The moral aspect of reproduction is that forcing families to bring children into that kind of hell is nothing other than immoral.

Douglas, S. 1994. Where the girls are: Growing up female with the mass media. New York: Times Books

Since I grew up without television and have never more than glanced at a woman’s magazine, much of the book is foreign to me, but I loved reminiscing about our common bits of history—Girl Groups, Bewitched, Virginia Slims ads, and the Miss America protests in 1968. As Susan says, the media are our greatest enemies and our greatest allies. Her thoroughly enjoyable book traces the history of the representation of women in the media from the fifties to the nineties. It’s also a graceful blend of historical facts and her own personal story and evolution. The book is strengthened by her willingness to eschew dramatic theses but simply to present the contradictory images of women as saints and whores during these pre-feminist, feminist, and second wave decades and emphasize that although some things have changed, sadly much has stayed the same.

Eagly, A., and Carli, L. 2007. Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School Press

The book is extremely well-written and lays out an extraordinary argument against bias in the workplace. Too bad that all male corporate executives won’t read this book, or even many female executives, given its dense academic prose. The authors unfortunately disclose their agenda early in the book in that they desperately want to show that women are superior leaders, but when over 70% of employees say they would rather work for a man, it’s going to be pretty hard to prove that.

Elgin, S. 1993. Genderspeak: Men, Women, and the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. New York: John Wiley & Sons

A bit of a strange book in that Suzette swings from astonishing pronouncements—the US trails Japan in robotics because we lack a friendly metaphor for a robot (R2-D2 doesn’t count?) and that “women (and children of both genders) dislike male verbal teasing intensely” 🙁 — to rather overly technical and alienating psycholinguistic terminology and diagrams. She also takes several potshots at Deborah Tannen which seems odd. On the other hand, she has put great effort into providing specific examples of typical dialogue in order to help men and women be kinder to each other. Nothin’ wrong with that.

Evanovich, J. 2011. One for the Money (Stephanie Plum #1). New York: St. Martin’s Griffin AUDIOBOOK, narrated by C.J. Critt

Not great literature, but it sure is fun. After losing her car and her job, Stephanie is desperate for cash and sees an opportunity to make a quick buck working for her sleazy cousin Vinny as a bounty hunter. And she can kill two birds with one stone by bringing down the cocky hottie who broke her heart in high school. Local color, New Joysey accents, and lots of action make for a funny and entertaining story about a working girl learning a new trade.

Evans, G., 2000. Play like a man, Win like a woman. New York: Broadway Books (a division of Random House)

This one is the real deal. Despite its goofy title, Gail gives concrete examples of how things play out in corporate America, and her personal experiences are right on. I find the representation of corporate life as a competition with men, and of corporate women as nitwits, somewhat distasteful, but it helped  keep her messages simple.

Feldhahn, S. 2004. For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books

This Christian author interviewed men to understand how they think (imagine that novel approach), and her conclusions are somewhat predictable but heartfelt and sometimes quite moving. Guess what, men really do want women to understand and care for them.

Feldhahn, S. 2009. The male factor: The unwritten rules, misperceptions, and secret beliefs of men in the workplace. New York: Broadway

I just recently came across this book and was amazed that her findings so closely mirrored what I observed in my career. Perhaps gender issues aren’t that mysterious after all. The information she gathered about men’s attitudes toward flexible work arrangements is particularly interesting. As in her first book, Shaunti takes an objective and open attitude to what she heard from the men she surveyed, to her great credit. While there is much here that will be rejected by women, her book is chock full of useful information, and I believe that these are rules we must play by until we have transformed the typical corporate environment.

Ferris, J. 2008. Then we came to the end. New York: Bay Back Books

After reading Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again at a Decent Hour and Then We Came to the End and attempting to read The Unnamed, I have reached the conclusion that he is a good writer with nothing interesting to write about. In this, his first novel, he reports the disintegrating team dynamics of a group of advertising employees while their company flounders in the months leading up to 9/11, losing customers and suffering wave after wave of layoffs. He portrays the group members as spoiled, cocky gossips, more preoccupied with competing with each other than doing any productive work. They are hardly made more likeable when, as one after another is dismissed, they turn pathetic and hateful. One certainly feels sympathy toward their supervising partner, a workaholic who may or may not be suffering from breast cancer, and her character is well-described but somehow never comes to life.
This is not to say that Ferris is not funny. Like an articulate and loquacious Dilbert, he dissects with outstanding snark the tedium, pettiness, and minutiae of the workplace, the underlying humiliation of working for the Man. His observations are astute enough that he may have spent time in an office environment, but I get the sense that he didn’t like it very much. The flashes of humanness—a man reading Emerson aloud to a depressed co-worker during lunchtime, another risking arrest by obliterating a Missing Person billboard for a colleague’s daughter months after the girl’s strangled body was discovered in an empty lot, the panic that sweeps through the group when a rumor spreads that people are being let go because they swapped their chair for someone else’s—are endearing, but they aren’t enough to disguise the fact that the book has essentially no plot.

Fey, T. 2011. Bossypants. New York: Regan Arthur Book

Unusual mix of essays about work, comedy, being Sarah Palin, Tina’s childhood, and childrearing. Whew. Despite her weird comedy, Tina is a rational, smart, and sympathetic role model. Maybe we have come a long way.

Fletcher, J. 1999. Disappearing acts: gender, power, and relational practice at work. Cambridge: The MIT Press

The author argues that although women have been somewhat successful at work, the hierarchical nature of corporations is inherently male and should be questioned, if not undone. Good luck with that.

Frankel, L. 2004. Nice girls don’t get the corner office: 101 Unconscious mistakes women make that sabotage their careers. New York: Time Warner Book Group

This landmark book focused on the details of women’s appearance, habits, speech, body language, facial expressions, attitudes, cheerfulness, volunteerism—oh boy, it seems as though we can’t do a thing right. It’s worth reading, but an executive’s success depends on more than these superficial issues. Focus on your actions, effectiveness, and results, and don’t worry so much about what you look like.

Friedan, B. 1963. The feminine mystique. New York: WW. Norton & Company

This dated book is still a startling reminder of the complicit indoctrination of women in the 50s, hinging on myths perpetrated by Freud and Mead. Its effect was dramatic in lowering the average age when a woman married and increasing the number of children she bore. It made my heart ache for my mother who wanted to be an architect but instead majored in home economics, married young, and had two children before the age of 24. Friedan makes the point I am ashamed to admit never occurred to me that powerful commercial interests would have been party to the pressure to keep women at home because lonely bored housewives make excellent shoppers. Friedan overreaches in the second half of the book when she blames the feminine mystique for the “rise” in homosexuality and teenage delinquency, but I appreciate her frequent reminders that a woman’s freedom is closely tied to her economic independence. That is a truth that continues to be ignored today.

Friedman, C., and Yorio, K. 2006. The girl’s guide to being a boss (without being a bitch). New York: Morgan Row Books

Once you get past the tough title, there’s lots of sensible advice here although I had the sense that the co-writers split the writing rather than writing each section together, so the tone seems somewhat uneven. A friend of mine was asked to remove the cover of this book on an airplane, so that her companion’s young daughter wouldn’t have to look at the word “bitch” the entire flight.

Gay, R. 2014. Bad Feminist. New York: Harpers Perennial

In this hodgepodge collection of surprisingly loosely edited essays (some border on musings), Roxane covers topics as diverse as TV shows, Sheryl Sandberg, her own sexual assault, and issues of gender and color. Throughout, her reasonable, clear voice is an upbeat and hopeful reminder that sensible dialog about sensitive topics is still possible, and the success of her book is an indicator that honest and thoughtful writing is still treasured. Very enjoyable, but pick and choose essays that are of interest to you.

Glaser, C., and Steinberg Smalley, B. 1995. Swim with the dolphins: how women can succeed in corporate America on their own terms. New York: Warner Books, Inc.

Very thorough and intelligent book covering many aspects of corporate life. Again, the premise that modern corporations need managers with stereotypical feminine qualities in order to succeed is dubious, and their prediction that by 2000 20% of top management slots in Fortune 500 companies would be held by women, well… LOL. In general however, their advice is solid and useful, if sometimes a bit wooly, “Do this, but not too much; be more like that, but not too much. Just be perfect, ok?” The section on humor was particularly strong, except for the example of the obscene poem which someone sent out in lieu of the annual bonus—not too funny.

Gray, J. 1992. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus: The classic guide to understanding the opposite sex. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

The extraterrestrial theme was amusing at first, but the simplification and repetition became boring and eventually irritating. Surely the secret to a magical relationship is more than knowing how to ask your spouse to take the trash out without making him mad. On the other hand, I applaud John’s courage. If I were to give romance advice, it would go along the lines of “Try to be nice; have sex when either wants to; and cling tight tight to each other because you are in for a very wild ride…in fact, forget it, your expectations are probably too high; you’re both too messed-up; and more marriages should end in divorce.” Which may not be what most people want to hear. Easier to talk about the trash.

Guiliano, M. 2009. Women, work, and the art of savoir faire. New York: Atria (Simon & Shuster)

Charmant, and contains some practical advice for building a resume, but a bit too moi-focused and not enough toi-focused for my taste. Does she really think she’s the last person on earth who arranges their dining utensils to signal to the waiter that she has finished? Vraiment?

Halpern, J. 2010. Sh*t My Dad Says.Los Angeles: It Books

Extremely funny book about Justin’s dad. Sometimes crude. And rude. Did I mention hilarious?

Halpern, B., and Lubar, K. 2003. Leadership Presence.New York: Gotham Books

These two actresses turned coaches lay out dramatic techniques to practice and cement your presence. The exercises are particularly good.

Hedges, K. 2012. The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. New York: American Management Association
Heim, P., and Goland, S. 1992. Hardball for women: Winning at the game of business. Los Angeles: Lowell House

Shocking book that suggests that you cheat in order to compete with your male peers. I shudder to think what it would be like to work with women who take the advice in this book seriously. One sympathizes with the frustration that drove the authors to take this aggressive stance, but I suggest other methods to rise in an organization.

Helgesen, S. 1990. The female advantage: Women’s ways of leadership. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell

Sally did a good job here of just documenting the behaviors of some successful executives with no agenda or interpretation. Nice to see an honest piece of work. For my purposes, I felt I had to discount the profiles in non-profits, of women who started their own company or had inherited one from their relatives, or who were in HR, which really left me only one to analyze. And I wasn’t convinced that one didn’t make a lot of mistakes along with exhibiting some good basic management practices. It does make you think that there’s more than one way to skin a cat here, which is probably the most accurate conclusion. Women with different styles and attitudes can be successful in different situations in different corporations. Gee, who knew.

Hudson, V., Baliff-Spanville, B., et al. 2012. Sex and World Peace. New York: Columbia University

When I observe the symptoms of the War on Women, I sometimes wonder: why do they hate us? This book explains why. Articulate and unflinching in its presentation of the facts, it is a horrifying read about the plight of girls and women around the globe—their constant endangerment and fear, the vicious circle of disempowerment, and man-made rules and constraints that trap them in a less-than-human state. A 2007 report estimated that there are 163 million women that should be here: they are missing because of egregious maternal mortality rates, sex selection, abnormally high suicide rates, excess childhood mortality, and violence against women. Fascinating in its detail, the book includes maps representing multiple factors affecting women by country, from maternal death to laws about child brides. The writers then use that data to choreograph the connection between the oppression of women and violence, whether perpetrated by individual men or by the state in acts of war. Brick after brick is laid in the development of the argument that in societies in which men bond with other men against their enemies in an endless bloody quest for resources, safety, and power, when women are of low status, their best interest lies in attaching themselves to a male, the bigger and badder the better. Thus, in unequal societies, savagery and ego are rewarded by higher reproduction. In those groups, men ensure each other access to sex by mores and legislation that prioritize men’s unencumbered desires and limit women’s choices. In those cultures, arranged marriages, polygamy, trafficking, rape, and murder are all symptoms of the lethal combination of violence and misogyny.

Kay, D., and Shipman, C. 2014. The Confidence Code: The science and art of self-assurance—what women should know.New York: HarperCollins

In this recent book, the authors attempt to bring together all of the work that has been done to understand what constitutes confidence: what it is and how you can get it. They draw from genetic and psychological studies, observations of rhesus monkeys, examples from business, military, academic and sports environments, as well as their own experiences building their careers in television journalism, along with surprising detailed anecdotes from their children’s lives. The result is a musing, if sometimes meandering survey, of “where we are” on the topic of confidence in various fields rather than an advice book, which, given the unscientific nature of many of the studies, was a wise choice. In some studies, correlation is confused with causation, other psychological studies are run without controls, and observer bias could influence the findings of still others. But the book does not pretend to stand up to scientific scrutiny; it doesn’t even include an index.
If you are new to the issues surrounding confidence, this book would serve as an excellent introduction. In particular, the chapter entitled “Wired for Confidence” includes factual and up-to-date information on our genetic makeup, its effect on our self-confidence, and the power of our environment, parents, and own self-talk to affect our brain chemistry. I grew impatient in some parts of the book where the information or conclusions were unactionable, or have been better presented in other books, but I was very pleased when the authors drew from the world of women’s sports to emphasize that confidence grows from practice and success on the ball field which lead to mastery. This is the most important takeaway about confidence: it can be achieved, but it requires dedication, effort, and willingness to fail. It can’t be learned from a book.

Kristof, N., and Wudunn, S. 2009. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York: Knopf

This one wins the award for the most stomach-churning book on the list as it reports both anecdotal and statistical evidence of abuse, torture, and slavery of girls and women in the developing world. The book is openly agenda-driven—the authors want you to contribute to aids programs. I am reluctant to be critical of such a well-intentioned book, but despite their own good advice, they should have been more careful not to overstate their case. To claim that terrorism stems from gender inequality is just silly. We now know from the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism that over 95% of suicide-terrorism is driven by foreign occupation—which should make us reconsider our priorities. Nevertheless, the authors have done a remarkable job in bringing more visibility to the pain and suffering of millions of girls across the world. I am particularly intrigued by studies that show that women gain power when they have money, and it turns out that women are good with money—they invest wisely in their children and in their businesses. Could it be for once that throwing money at a problem could be just the right solution?

Lakoff, R. 1975. Language and Woman’s PlaceNew York: Harper Colophon

I read this the first time in 1975 when I was in high school, and it’s scary to read it today and see that so little has changed: women still say ‘so happy,’ ‘oh fudge,’ and use tag questions; we still don’t know what to call them (woman/lady/girl); lady is still a euphemism for something distasteful (‘cleaning lady’); married women still give up their names; and we still don’t know what we would call the spouse of a female US President, because we haven’t had one! In terms of ‘progress,’ men now are allowed to use the word ‘braise,’ without drawing their masculinity into question (though probably not ‘kick pleat’), and we do now have nasty jokes about men told by female comediennes. Yay.

Lenehan, P. 2006. What you don’t know and your boss won’t tell you. Minneapolis: Syren Book Company

Pam has gathered straightforward feedback from a number of female executives on some sensitive topics. Although she spends an inordinate amount of space discussing dress and makeup, she also gets in some important practical advice. The books suffers from her unwillingness to take a stand herself when the executives offer contradictory advice.

Losee, S., and Olen, H. 2007. Office mate: The employee handbook for finding and managing romance on the job. Avon: Adams Media

Although I am adamantly opposed to this premise, the authors lay out the correct advice for what to do if you have been so incredibly stupid as to fall in love with a co-worker. There seem to be some contradictions, perhaps because there are two authors, particularly about which comes first, the career or the love life. That is, after all, the supreme question underlying this issue.

Mac, J. 2009. Manslations: Decoding the secret language of men. SourceBooks, Inc.

Amusing guide about what men are actually thinking (assume it’s about sex) and how to interpret what they say (assume they are trying to get you into bed). Jeff comes across as a nice guy who really is trying to make communication between men and women better although I suspect (hope?) many men would object to being reduced to the complexity of a dog. The table of answers to common problems (“He won’t talk to me about his feelings”) from Your Average Trashy Women’s Magazine, Self-Help Books Written by Other Men, Your Mom, Your Girlfriends, and the correct Manslations Answer is quite funny.

Maybin, S. 2006. If you can’t say something nice, what DO you say?. Book Surge

Sarita offers practical approaches and actual phrases for times when you have to say something that’s not ‘nice’ but you don’t want to wreck your relationship. Most of this slim volume addresses work situations, but I enjoyed the sections on how to turn down a request for a date and how to answer the question Why? Having specific examples of what you might say is very useful. Sarita is also a wonderful, warm, and funny speaker.

McLaughlin, E., and Kraus, N. 2005. Citizen Girl. New York: Washington Square Press AUDIOBOOK, narrated by the authors

The novel Citizen Girl is promoted as a comic report on the trials and tribulations of a humanities graduate whose degree appears to qualify her for a future no brighter than spending her days as an over-worked admin assistant, living in a closet-sized room in New York, with no hope of paying off her student loans. Anticipating an exploration of the new economy from the perspective of a recent grad, I was surprised to discover that’s not what the book is about at all. It’s a thoughtful though somewhat garbled story* about a young feminist, strangely named “Girl,” who is hired to re-brand a commercial website focused on selling health and beauty supplies to women. The intent of the re-branding is to appeal to what the male management refers to as “Ms. Readers.” Sound challenging? It is. Enter an embittered Eastern European prostitute, a possibly insane British clothier who specializes in swimming pool-to-bedroom outfits, a sexist gay re-branding expert, and you have the makings for one nutty job. To our growing admiration, Girl manages to hold it together, attempting to stay true to her ideals in a world where feminism has become irrelevant. Although the production of the audiobook is subpar, the story is worth hearing.
*I discovered later that the audiobook version is abridged which might explain some of the strange dangling ends.

Milazzo, V. 2006. Inside every woman. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

I don’t have a single nice thing to say about this book, so I’m going to say almost nothing.

Mindell, P. 2001. How to say it for women; Communicating with confidence and power using the language of success. Paramus: Prentice Hall Books

Phyllis’s wide-ranging book swings from specific no-no’s (never say “I think”) to enormous generalities (women are born with better writing skills than men), but she’s onto something here. Maybe it doesn’t require a whole book to say it, but executive women need to express conviction in their own ideas before anyone else will follow.

Moriarty, L. 2014. Big little liesNew York: Putnam,, AUDIOBOOK, narrated by Caroline Lee

This ostensibly comic novel about an elementary school community in a beachside Australian suburb portrays the petty conflicts and jealousies that circulate amongst the parents to great humorous effect. Yes, the narrator clues us in that someone will eventually end up dead, but at the outset, that all seems part of the hand-waving future, and in the meantime, we can laugh at these silly parents, their preposterous expectations for their children, and their goofy vanities. In spite of their parents, the children come to light as careful, generous creatures, but it’s the growing friendship between three mothers, and their private lives, that capture us. These are serious women, with thoughtful observations, and real problems. As secrets, hypocrisy, and betrayals emerge, we spend less time laughing and more time reflecting on the pressures of motherhood and the complexity of human relationships. When past and present cruelties burst from hiding at an alcohol-soaked school event, they explode into a stunning act of violence. The audiobook is a hoot, entertaining from beginning to end, but the writer’s willingness to take on topics like bullying and domestic violence is truly laudable. The narrator is excellent, especially her portrayals of the children, and her Australian accent is amusing throughout.

Morrison, A., and White, R., et al. 1987. Breaking the glass ceiling: Can women reach the top of America’s largest corporations?Reading: Addison-Wesley

Sponsored by the Center for Creative Leadership, this book grew out of interviews with 76 female executives and their colleagues and compares key factors for success with a similar set of interviews with male executives. The results are not particularly compelling except for the phenomenally accurate prediction by the authors that they “expect to see no more than a handful of women reach the senior management level of Fortune 100-sized corporations within the next two decades, because the barriers that keep women out of senior management today will remain.” Wow. When they wrote, there were 4 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and they predicted a similar number would be at the top of Fortune 100 companies—in 2011 (25 years later), there were 6. Now, that’s what I call close. Remember, too, all the writing in the 90s about how women would take over the senior ranks in a decade? All wrong. Ann and co got it right way back then.

Myers, D. 2008. Why women should rule the worldNew York: HarperCollins

Despite its stupid title (again with the stupid titles!), Dee Dee’s book reflects an intelligent mind considering gender differences in areas as wide-ranging as biology, politics, housework, and war. She covers her rather unhappy experience as the first female press secretary (she claims that Clinton gave her responsibility without authority and kept her out of the loop during important times), but the more interesting parts of the book are those when she synthesizes research on gender differences and muses about current events. Her critique of Larry Summers’ foolish assertion that women have less intrinsic aptitude for science and engineering than men is thoughtful and quite relevant today.

O’Reilly, J. and Cahn, S. (ed.) 2007. Women and sports in the United States: A documentary readerBoston: Northeastern University Press

An excellent collection of essays, articles, op-ed pieces, and miscellaneous writings about the progress, coverage, realities, and problems of female sports participants over the last 125 years. The written chapter introductions felt a bit obligatory, but most of the selected writings are varied and interesting. A couple of standouts were: David Zirin’s essay on the “all-too-quiet” retirement of Mia Hamm, pro-basketball player Mariah Burton Nelson’s excerpt from The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football, and Jean O’Reilly’s own essay on how female athletes are portrayed in the movies (usually badly). The editors were willing to include opposing viewpoints, such as an incredibly stupid essay by George Will on Title IX, which adds to the tension of the book. I might have pulled the section on Title IX forward because of its continued controversy, but you can always read that section first. Outstanding work.

Puwar, N. 2004. Space invaders: Race, gender, and bodies out of place Oxford: Berg

Nirmar’s academic prose addressing the theoretical collision of foreign bodies (females, minorities) with traditional male bodies (the House of Commons) is a bit daunting and can result in some crazy talk (“The male body is invisible as a sexed entity” –ahem), but there is much of interest here, particularly regarding issues of non-whiteness. Some of the artistic representations of “otherness,” especially Antony Gormley’s The Field, are fascinating. Nirmar reminds us that those identified as “other” are hence perceived only to be competent to speak about “otherness,” so bell hooks can only speak about blackness, Marissa Mayer is only asked about female executives, and Zadie Smith is only quoted when she talks about class. White males alone are allowed to speak with authority about humans. She then points out the impossible position “others” are put in when the environment pretends that we are gender- and color-blind, that being different is unacceptable. She writes, “Admitting difference in an organization which asserts that everybody is the same and that standards are neutral. . . goes against a core identify of being a professional.” Sound familiar?

Reardon, K. 1995. They don’t get it, do they? Boston: Little, Brown and Company

Kathleen’s beautifully-written and intelligent book is wrecked by her combative stance toward men. From the title, which initially sounds as though it could “cut both ways,” but then is revealed to apply exclusively to men [the idiots], to the final conclusion where she advises women not to “play along,” she promotes an ‘us vs them’ attitude that just plain doesn’t work at the office. Some of her specific suggestions for “come-backs” have an artificial ring, and some are downright offensive. For example, she suggests that you respond to a man who says “I’m just kidding,” by saying “Maybe you should take a course in what’s funny.” Ouch. If I were the male receiver of that line, I’d secretly hope I’d never have to speak to her again. A lot of men already don’t like working with women—it’s supposed to help that we bite their heads off?

Rezvani, S. 2010. The next generation of women leaders: What you need to lead but won’t learn in business school. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO

Selena has done a good job here in condensing much of the literature into straightforward friendly advice targeted at recent graduates. The book is clearly well-intentioned, and I expect we’ll see more of her thoughtful work. Her own lack of corporate experience makes the book a bit hypothetical, but it’s nice to see a young writer coming up in this field.

Sandberg, S. 2013. Lean In: Women, work, and the will to lead.

This very fine book grew out of Sheryl’s TED talk and other speeches written for her by Nell Scovell, ghostwriter of this book, with significant contributions by social researcher, Marianne Cooper. They have worked hard to pound out any whiff of arrogance or entitlement, and the book sounds defensive at times, which is no surprise, I guess, given the nasty welcome the book received from so many before its publication. In its attempt to be all things to all people, however, the book seems too polished (except for the section on mentoring which is surprisingly harsh), and it’s hard to determine exactly what the manifesto is. It’s not really an advice book, since the advice given is too general to be immediately useful, but more of an interesting commentary. The stories and humor are wonderful, and it’s great to have all the recent gender-related studies pulled together in one place. I hope Sheryl realizes that she has condemned herself to continuing to work in corporate America! If she were to drop out soon to run the Lean In Foundation, that would give us all pause.

Shambaugh, R. 2008. It’s not a Glass Ceiling; It’s a sticky floor. New York: McGraw-Hill

Although the book is not well-written, and she thanks her “literacy” agency, which is kind of sad, Rebecca attempts to document her anecdotal findings about women’s own failings that undercut their success. I’ll bet she’s right, and it’s too bad that her message got lost. She should try again.

Shambaugh, R. 2012. Make room for her: Why companies need an integrated leadership model to achieve extraordinary results. New York: McGraw-Hill

Rebecca’s good intentions shine through in her long-awaited (at least for me) second book. Unfortunately, her efforts this time have turned in the wrong direction: instead of basing her arguments on her extensive experience with her clients, she invokes questionable “brain science” to justify her call for diversity by claiming that women are innately more creative, collaborative, and empathetic. There are two problems with this: 1) it’s not backed up by real science, and 2) the contradictory claim is made that women are just as decisive, authoritative, and tough as men, but they ALSO have these other “feminine” traits which make them even better leaders than men. Hmmm, marvelous creatures indeed; I want to give Rebecca the benefit of the doubt, and even I’m not buying it. The right approach requires less twisted thinking: diversity in and of itself offers advantages. We should not limit our hiring to white males; we should consider women, Asians, Hispanics, etc. because casting a wider net will bring a broader range of talents to the table. I would have preferred that this book be titled “Make Room for Everyone.” Diversity should not be limited to white women.

Shepard, M., Stimmler, J., and Dean P. 2009 breaking into the Boys’ Club: 8 ways for women to get ahead in business. Lanham: M. Evans

Oddly, this book left me completely cold. It’s not bad or wrong–could it be that it’s just totally bland? I was hoping for something interesting in the chapter for African-American women, but alas, that one too just said nothing.

Stanny, B. 2002. Secrets of six-figure women. New York: Harper Collins Publishers

Insulting book that proposes a pie-in-the-sky attitude that if you just have the right attitude, you’ll get rich. I don’t find that kind of advice appropriate for the corporate world, but if you’re into ouji boards and crystals, it might be just the thing you’re looking for.

Stone, P. 2007. Opting out? Why women really quit careers and head home. Berkeley: University of California Press

Very interesting book based on interviews with a number of well-educated and successful women who stopped working. Pam sets herself a difficult hypothesis that the women were pushed out by the corporate world, despite their own claims to the contrary. I would be cautious about trying to out-guess these super-smart women. Her corollary that the corporate world must make changes to accommodate women is too agenda-driven for my taste, but the book is well-written and worth reading. I particularly appreciated her insight that when husbands say, “It’s your choice, honey,” they mean, “It’s your problem.”

Swiss, D. 2000. The male mind at work: A woman’s guide to working with men. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing

Publishers Weekly complained that this book is too negative which sounded kind of dumb to me at first, but I have to admit that by the end, I was pretty tired of hearing about how awful it is to work with women. A couple of the men that Deborah interviewed seemed to really dislike women and wish that they just weren’t in the workplace at all. I came away more discouraged than motivated, and perhaps others will feel as I did. The author probably didn’t realize how nasty the book would sound. Too bad because there’s some good material here.

Tannen, D. 1994. Talking from 9 to 5: Women and men at work.New York: HarperCollins Publishers

Another excellent book from Deborah and quite consistent with my observations of workplace communication although many of her examples are from academia. I especially appreciate her even-handed, optimistic attitude about differing communication styles. As an aside, her transcripts of workplace dialogue are eye-opening–it’s amazing how incoherent people are.

Tannen, D. 1990. You just don’t understand: women and men in conversation. New York: William Morrow

Terrific, mostly-data-driven book that documents men’s and women’s speech habits and offers interpretations in a socio-linguistic context. A great window into “hearing” men and women, but Deborah is careful and correct not to turn this into an advice book.

Tarr-Whelan, L. 2009 Women lead the way: your guide to stepping up to leadership and changing the world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Linda has devoted her life to trying to get women into powerful positions in our society. While I respect and admire her work, and I understand that she is frustrated by women’s lack of success, the notion that we should implement laws to force companies to put women in management positions and on boards is a non-starter, even for me. I much prefer trying to get women to be successful by empowering, training, and encouraging them, as I do in my book.

Tyler, A. 1996 Ladder of Years. New York: Ballentine

Delia, a forty-year-old mother and wife disappears while on vacation at the beach with her family. Has she met with foul play? Has she done a runner? Or has she accidentally drifted away from her pod, like a milkweed seed, and can’t seem to find the right current to get back? Ann writes like a dream, and her observations about the human experience range freely among the peculiar (why isn’t celery called corduroy plant?), the shared, such as the ambivalent feelings children have about their parents, and vice versa, and the unanswerable, like questions about love and marriage. This book will particularly appeal to wives who have survived two decades of marriage and mothers who have watched their children lurch into adolescence, to the befuddlement of both parent and child. I wish I had read this book as part of a book club—I am curious to know what others thought of Ann’s ending. To all those who have have planned, casually or not, executed or not, an escape from their lives and longed for clean, fresh starts…

Valian, V. 1998. Why so slow: The advancement of women. Cambridge: MIT Press

This stunningly persuasive book reports on study after study showing how females are socialized differently from males in the US, starting directly out of the womb, as their mothers and fathers treat them differently, as do siblings, peers, teachers, academic counselors, hiring managers, academic peers, and so on. Reading this book is like being hit on the head over and over: eventually, you have to acknowledge the pain. Here’s one sad example: a teacher asked his 4th grade class why girls and boys didn’t play soccer together at recess. The boys and many of the girls said that the girls could play but didn’t want to. But one girl who did play occasionally said: “The boys never ask us to play. Then when we do play, only boys are chosen to be captains. And girls don’t get the ball passed to them very often, and when a girl scores a goal, the boys don’t cheer.” As Vivian says, “This quote with terms suitably transposed, could describe adult professional life… when a girl scores a goal, the boys don’t cheer.”
The book is full of important findings; for example, although Title IX has increased girls’ teams and participation, women now occupy a smaller percentage of the coaching jobs for girls’ teams than before Title IX. All of the new jobs and more have gone to male coaches. And sex bias cuts both ways: another disturbing finding is that fathers, much more so than mothers, demonstrate intolerance of feminine behavior by their sons, such as, crying, playing with dolls, dressing in a skirt–acting like a girl really is unacceptable. This book explains why it is not easy for women to succeed in corporate America, for about a thousand reasons.

Wolitzer, M. 2008. The ten-year nap. New York: Riverhead Books

Fabulously-written novel that, despite being fiction, feels entirely accurate in its depiction of a bunch of New York women and their relationships with their work, children, husbands, and each other. Terrific prose and laugh-out-loud observations.

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