Who Says It's a Man's World

The Girls' Guide to Corporate Domination

 Who Says It's a Man's World

Author: Emily Bennington
Pub Date: January 2013
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814431870
Page Count: 240
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814431887

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Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Ding, Dong! The Bitch Is Dead

A FEW YEARS ago I worked for a corporate public accounting

firm that hired a whip-smart new grad named Asha.

While our firm was among the 15th largest in the country,

many top recruits heard the siren call of even bigger companies

and Asha—being a star student—had her choice of any of them.

I knew she had recently wrapped up an internship with a particular

big firm-that-shall-remain-nameless and received an

employment offer, too. So, over a cold beer at a baseball game

we sponsored (ah, corporate life) I asked her why she chose us.

“The people.”

She answered without hesitation—and I knew what she

meant. While still being very corporate—right down to the boring

gray walls and penalty fines for missing timesheet deadlines—

our firm did make gallant efforts to marry high profits

with the hospitality of its Southern roots.

For Asha, the culture-first approach to choosing her employer

stemmed from a negative experience she had while interning for

the firm-that-shall-remain-nameless. She spoke indignantly

about how the company actively encouraged interns to compete

with each other by announcing, for example, that only a fraction

of those who survived the “three-month job interview” would be

brought on full-time. Naturally, this caused the workplace

equivalent of bum-rushing lifeboats on the Titanic. In one incident,

an intern received a last-minute invitation to a reception

where firm partners and clients would be in attendance. Sensing

a huge opportunity (a.k.a. fish-in-a-barrel networking), the

intern kept the event a secret from everyone else and went solo.

If that story makes you go “Whoa! What a dick!” you’re in the

right place.

Because, given the title of this book, Who Says It’s a Man’s

World, you may think this is another go get ‘em tigress guide for

women in pencil skirts who would do the same thing while

simultaneously ripping a box of copy paper in half with their

bare teeth. In fact, maybe you even semi-expect me to say that

nice equals weak, emoticons are for losers, and a “survival of the

fittest” attitude is the way to get ahead.

Well . . . sorry.

This stereotype of the take-no-prisoners alpha-femme—

while promoted gleefully and relentlessly in the media—

makes for great entertainment, but it is deadly to your career

in practice. I learned this firsthand at the entry level when I

modeled behaviors I thought were “corporate”—only to fall

flat on my face. (Think Devil Wears Prada ice queen except,

sadly, without the Prada.) I remember walking out of my firstever

performance review—crushed—when my boss at the time

(and future Effective Immediately coauthor) Skip Lineberg told

me that I had potential, but virtually no respect from the team.

Ouuuuuuuch.

Of course, being a total doormat isn’t all that effective either,

so the million-dollar question is:

“What does it take for women to win at the highest

levels of business?”

Judging by the minuscule number of women who have actually

reached such levels, it sometimes feels like the answer is

tucked away—Da Vinci Code–style—in a locked box under

three feet of marble in an undisclosed location. Women make

up half of the workforce and yet, the higher you go up the ladder,

the more that number seems to drop . . . and drop. (Forbes

once called this disparity the “biggest disappearing act on earth.”)

In fact, as I write, women account for just 4 percent of Fortune

500 CEOs, 6 percent of top earners, and 16 percent of board

directors and corporate officers. This is a shame for women and

the bottom line, because when ladies are at the table there’s no

denying it’s good for business. That’s not just ra-ra-girl-power

talk, by the way. Countless studies have confirmed it, including

a five-year analysis of 524 public companies by the research firm

Catalyst, which found that organ izations with the most women

board members outperformed those with the least number of

women holding board seats by 16 percent.

Still, after sifting through mountains of data on the business

case for gender balance, I wanted to put my own ear to the

ground to find out what, specifically, is holding us back and

what is propelling us forward. As such, I’ve spent the last few

years surveying more than 700 executive women, interviewing

scores of super-achievers for Forbes, presenting at numerous

women’s leadership events, and coaching countless professionals.

This was obviously a complex undertaking, so it may surprise

you that my conclusion to all this research can be boiled

down into one simple sentence.

You must be a magnificent woman first to have a

magnificent career.

I know, I know. Sounds too simple, right? Like everyone

else, you’ve probably been going about things the other way

around—that is, laser-focused on the job and what you need to

do to get ahead. That’s important, of course (and covered

here), but more than just offering advice on the what, this

journey is also about digging deep to help you figure out the

who. In other words, before you can decide what to do in your

career, it’s important to understand the kind of professional

you want to be.

As you’ll see in the Woman 2 Woman narratives, the most

successful women I’ve interviewed—McDonald’s USA

President Jan Fields and Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, among

others—all express this need for self-awareness, and by the end

of this book you’ll be clear on it, too.

You’ll know, specifically, the attitudes and behaviors you

need to kick to the curb and the ones you need to kick into gear.

You’ll also have the opportunity to identify your personal core

values and apply them to five key professional development

areas—self-awareness, social skills, personal effectiveness, team

development, and leadership.

This ain’t guesswork, people.

The origin of the personal values template is straight from

one of the most accomplished people in American history—Ben

Franklin—and the career plan template is similar to those used

within large, multinational companies and developed in consultation

with HR executives serving the Fortune 100.

As you work through this book, and in effect develop your

own career path, my hope is that you’ll truly understand that

“corporate domination” isn’t about kicking the door down as

so many of us have been (mis)led to believe. (Seriously, save

your stilettos.) It’s about melting it down one thought, one

interaction, and one person at a time. Asha was right. Business

is a game about people and—like everything else in life—it all

starts with you.

To your magnificence!

@EmilyBennington

P.S. For additional inspiration along your career journey, visit

me at www.emilybennington.com.

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