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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.

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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.

  • About the Author

    Jennifer K. Crittenden earned an MBA in finance and worked for over twenty years in the US and abroad, rising from financial analyst to chief financial officer. She is the author of four books, including the award-winning Discreet Guide for Executive Women. She offers professional development programs through her company The Discreet Guide.

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Nonfiction Books – Five Stars – Must Read

If you click on a cover and make any purchase from Amazon in the same session, I receive a small commission. It’s a way for you to support my reviews (if you like them).

*****

The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan – 1963. 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. That social indoctrination dramatically lowered the average age when a woman married and increased the number of children she bore. The book 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. Betty 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.

*****

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell – 2013. New York: Knopf

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.

*****

The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued – Ann Crittenden [no relation] – 2001. 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.

 


*****

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain – 2012. New York: Crown Publishing

I’m not sure this book deserves to be on this esteemed list, BUT its message is so important that I’m going to put it front and center. It is an excellent research book about introversion and how extroversion is favored in our society to our detriment. I object to dividing people into introverts and extroverts because I find that people are much more fluid than such simple categories imply. However, Susan’s reminder that thoughtful, focused people produce great work in solitude is timely in this period where we are constantly told to self-promote and “get out there,” and all our heroes are loud mouths.


*****

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen P. Covey – 1989. New York: Simon & Schuster

Although there’s a lot of gobbledy-gook in this classic self-help book, you can’t argue with results. Zillions of people have benefited from Stephen’s condensing his worldview into seven important guidelines that can keep you positive and focused. The slew of training material and follow on books seem overblown to me, but I think this is a valuable resource if you keep it simple.

*****

Sex and World Peace – Valerie Hudson and Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill – 2012. 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 who 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.

*****

Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work – Deborah Tannen – 1994. 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.

 

*****

Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media – Susan Douglas – 1994. 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.

*****

Why So Slow: The Advancement of Women – Vivian Valian – 1998. Cambridge: MIT Press

This stunningly persuasive book reports 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, 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 fourth-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.

Nonfiction reviews:

*****Five Stars

****Four Stars

***Three Stars

**Two Stars

* One Star

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