Book Review: Roundup of Women’s Career Books… Part 2
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
This set of capsule reviews of career books targeted at women joins our collection of previously published women’s career book reviews.
In the introduction to her book, The Girls’ Guide to Power and Success, Susan Wilson Solovic observes: “Many people have asked why I wanted to write a success book for women when there are already so many on the market.” Good question. With so many success books out there for women, we decided that uniqueness and originality of message should be a good litmus test for the value of these books. Most career books for women seem to espouse variations of the same basic set of advice — get educated; plan your career; tap into the Internet (the great equalizer of power and information); take advantage of your unique communication and networking skills; get a mentor; be confident; promote yourself; and go into business for yourself. So, as we reviewed this round of women’s career books, we asked the questions — What’s new? What’s cutting edge? What unique contribution does each book make to the body of knowledge women need to get ahead?
The Girls’ Guide to Power and Success, by Susan Wilson Solovic, $22.95, 208 pages, Hardcover, AMACOM, ISBN: 0814405894
Solovic is the most angry of the authors represented here. She’s rightfully steamed about women’s lack of progress, and she offers some statistics-packed chapters to show why she’s so outraged and why all women should feel the same. For example, in terms of women in management positions, she notes that at the current rate of progress, it will take until the year 2476 — 475 years — for women to reach equality in the workplace. Most of her book is the standard set of advice we’ve seen repeatedly, although Solovic is refreshingly forceful in the way she urges women to heed the familiar advice. The chapter that got our attention, though, is the one on advocacy, which encourages activism and electoral power as a route to meaningful change for women. Unfortunately, Solovic is occasionally guilty of the same sexism she rails against men for. She writes: “Because of Watergate, Iran Contra, Whitewater, Travelgate, and, of course, the infamous Clinton and ‘what’s her name’ scandal (I refuse to give her free publicity in this book)… there’s a perceived lack of morality and integrity in government and a growing public disdain for the political process.” Ummm, didn’t Clinton play a role in that scandal? Or was it entirely the fault of “what’s her name”?
Dancing on the Glass Ceiling: Tap into Your True Strengths, Activate Your Vision, and Get What You Really Want out of Your Career, by Candy Deemer, Nancy Fredericks, $21.95, 256 pages, Hardcover, McGraw-Hill Trade, ISBN: 0071406948
The most career-oriented of the books reviewed here, Deemer’s and Fredericks’ volume doesn’t stray far from the familiar messages of this genre. But the author’s do have a nice way of packaging the information. Following a chapter on knowing yourself and an excellent one on plotting your career course, Deemer and Fredericks offer several chapters on reinventing various aspects of your life: attitudes, job, skill sets, and relationships. Two final chapters provide some warm and fuzzy “enriching concepts” for career and personal life. Gotta love a women’s success book that promotes yoga, hot baths, and massages! Lots of bulleted lists, anecdotes, and illustrations add to the book’s readability, and the book has an energetic, hands-on workshop feel to it. Amusingly, Deemer and Fredericks fall victim to that old chestnut, the alleged 1953 Yale study in which 3 percent of graduates wrote down their goals at the time of graduation, and 20years later, that same 3 percent was happier and wealthier than the rest of the class. Unfortunately, the study has been shown to be nonexistent. Never happened, despite its being cited in countless venues. Maybe it doesn’t matter, though, if it helps to illustrate the point that it’s helpful to write down your goals.
Bodacious: An AOL Insider Cracks the Code to Outrageous Success for Women, by Mary E. Foley, Martha I. Finney (Contributor), $24.00, 256 pages, Hardcover, AMACOM, ISBN: 0814471315
Foley tries to do two things in the book — tell her saga about being one of the earliest employees of AOL and how she finally left the organization, as well as use that experience as an illustration of how women can become “bodacious” — and the two threads are not always well integrated. One sometimes wishes she had decided to do one thing or the other instead of both. Foley writes: “In my 10 years at AOL…I discovered that all those characteristics of AOL that made it the huge success story it is today were the same qualities I needed to achieve my own potential.” Of course, it doesn’t help make Foley’s case that AOL is struggling mightily these days, but her analogy is not always successful anyway. She asserts that women, like AOL, are all “startups,” and she offers some sound startup advice. Her chapter that asserts that women thrive on shift and change is the most career oriented and provides some wise insights on surviving a layoff, evaluating multiple job offers, negotiating salary and stock options, and what to do once you’ve got the job. One of the best nuggets in the chapter is a terrific list of questions to ask in job interviews. Much of the rest of the book is dedicated to achieving bodaciousness. In many ways, the road to bodaciousness is the same well-trodden route we’ve seen in the other books, but there are a few new ideas here, such as “Bodacious women notice moments of magic and serendipity.” A very slight undercurrent of Foley’s anger, reminiscent of the ire expressed in Solovic’s book, serves as a cautionary tale to corporations, when Foley writes of her decision to leave AOL that she joined the ranks of “statistics of ambitious American women whose value to their corporations is lost and whose careers risk being derailed by the failure (either their employers’ or their own) to accurately capture the true value of their contribution and potential.”
Bold Women, Big Ideas: Learning to Play the High-Risk Entrepreneurial Game, by Kay Koplovitz, Peter Israel (Contributor), $26.00, 272 pages, Hardcover, PublicAffairs, ISBN: 158648107X
Koplovitz’s book falls into the subset of women’s career books that focuses on entrepreneurship, one of the paths to success that many of the more general books espouse. And Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks, primarily hones in on an even smaller niche — women’s quest for venture capital for their businesses. The most startling statistic she cites also appears in Solovic’s book — that of the billions invested by venture capitalists in new businesses, only 1.7 percent went to enterprises owned or led by women (as of the last year stats were available). Most of the rest of Koplovitz’s book is dedicated to her efforts to change all that through a venture-capital forum called Springboard, designed to help women develop the networks and presentation skills they need to get the money they need. Along the way, Koplovitz offers numerous case histories of women entrepreneurs. Two chapters are in the how-to vein, sharing much of the information from the Springboard workshops to help readers learn to grab a piece of the venture-capital pie.
In summary, while none of these books represent a breakthrough in the women’s success genre, they are all good reads and worthy of being added to ambitious women’s bookshelves — or least being checked out of the library!
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.