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  • FIRST BOOK

    “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.

    Read her LinkedIn profile.

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Nonfiction Books – Four Stars – Recommended

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

****

Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay – 2014. 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.

 

 

****

Bossypants – Tina Fey – 2011. 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.

 

 

 

****

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – 2009. 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 percent 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?

 

****

The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace – Shaunti Feldhahn – 2009. 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.

 

****

Maternity: Letters from Working Women – Women’s Co-operative Guild (ed) – 1978. 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.

 

****

Opting out? Why women really quit careers and head home – Pam Stone – 2007. 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.”

 

 

****

Play Like a Man, Win Like a woman – Gail Evans – 2000. 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.

 

 

 

 

****

The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others – KristiHedges – 2012. NewYork: American Management Association

In researching material for my training program on presence, I came across this excellent book. Kristi focuses on your inner intentions to strengthen your message through your presence. Her takeaways at the end of each chapter are very valuable.

 

 

 

****

Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today  Philip Galanes – 2011. New York: Simon & Schuster

Amusing columns address awkward issues in modern times. Philip correctly points out the goal of good manners is to prevent bumps in the road, or to smooth them over if they can’t be avoided. That overarching objective can guide you in many situations he doesn’t address in the book.

 

 

 

****

Tales from the Boom-Boom room: Women vs. Wall Street – Susan Antilla – 2002. 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 sued 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.

****

Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about How Women Become Leaders – Alice Eagly and Linda L. Carli – 2007. 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 percent of employees say they would rather work for a man, it’s going to be pretty hard to prove that.

 

 

****

Women and Sports in the United States: A Documentary Reader – Jean and Susan K. Cahn (ed.) – 2007. Boston: 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.

****

Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation and Positive Strategies for Change – Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever – 2007. New York: Bantam Dell (a division of Random House)

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.

 

 

****

You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation – Deborah Tannen – 1990. 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.

Nonfiction reviews:

*****Five Stars

****Four Stars

***Three Stars

**Two Stars

* One Star

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