Who Says It's a Man's World
The Girls' Guide to Corporate Domination
Author: Emily Bennington
Pub Date: January 2013
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814431870
Page Count: 240
e-Book ISBN: 9780814431887
Buy the book:
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.
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
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.
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
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!
P.S. For additional inspiration along your career journey, visit
me at www.emilybennington.com.
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