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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
It is an unfortunate fact that females are a far too low percentage of the personnel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Twenty years or so ago, it seemed that the historic under representation would be eliminated as the curve of the female percentage in these fields was rising at a steady rate. However, that trend has reversed and is going downwards. Some of this may simply be cyclical and due to the behavior of the economy, for example the IT profession has shed thousands of jobs in the last decade. Furthermore, some of the brightest people of both sexes are now going into the financial area, hedge funds for example.
Given the clear shortage of people in the STEM fields, a natural way to solve this problem is to increase the percentage of females in these fields. Purcell is an engineer and in this book she puts forward advice for females wanting to enter and succeed in STEM fields as well as how to encourage girls to enter and stay in STEM track educational programs.
In general, the advice of seeking out mentors, especially those that are female, encouraging girls to persevere in STEM areas and to not easily give up when things get difficult is sound and effective. There are two areas where I disagree with Purcell's approach. In her writings, she describes the interactions of females in the workspace as one of calm and supportive aid for each other and that females tend to be more willing to compromise than males. The position that the interactions between two female co-workers are always supportive is nonsense. Without question the most intense and hostile rivalry between two people that I have witnessed in the workplace has been between two females that were rivals for a position. Also, there have been many times when I heard one female co-worker criticize another for her hairstyle, outfit of the day and makeup. This could hardly be considered supportive. Females are human and so are prone to the same rivalries, so to claim that it is otherwise is wrong. There is no mention of how to deal with problems such as this in the workplace.
The second issue that I have with Purcell is in the area of sexism in the work place. I certainly know it exists, but it is also the case that when a woman encounters what she thinks is sexism she should first give a little benefit of the doubt. What she perceives as sexism may simply be misplaced chivalry or have a completely different explanation. For example, after years of working around construction machinery and the natural process of aging, I suffer from some selective hearing loss. I hear deeper (male) voices very well but have a problem with the softer female voices. To compensate for this I tend to lean forward and concentrate on the lips of the woman when she speaks. I was doing this once when the woman objected that I was disturbing her. She apologized to me after I explained my hearing loss to her and at that point I learned how my attempt to understand was being (mis)interpreted. Spoken language is also full of ambiguities, so what a woman believes is a sexist comment may just be an inaccurate conclusion. I teach at the college level and every once in awhile I will say something to a female student and then have to back up and say, "That didn't sound quite right, I better rephrase that." We all misspeak once in awhile so it is a good idea for the receiver to consider the doubt before taking offense.
Another possible source is due to the differences in subcultures. For example, when I was growing up in rural Iowa the phrase, "You're putting lipstick on a pig" was often used to describe an attempt to make a bad situation look better. People of both genders used it as a generic statement. Yet, this phrase was considered an insult to women in a recent political campaign and a city woman that I knew called it offensive in a conversation that we had over politics. She had never heard the term used before.
While the advice in this book is generally good, Purcell tends to simplify the complexities of the workplace. Since it is a place where careers and incomes are made, there tends to be rivalries between all people of all genders and while there is still sexism, there is also the degrading of others in order to advance that has nothing to do with sexism, although it may appear to be. Purcell tends to ignore that aspect of the attempt to make a career.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I went to an engineering college but went there not knowing what an engineer "does" - i studied technical communications and social sciences. As a parent of two young children (boy and girl) I really feel it is important to not pigeon hole children into gender-specific roles. It happens SOOO young. My daughter can be an engineer (like her father) or a beautician or a mechanic. My son could be any of those as well! When we talk to children about life, we shouldn't assume that a girl "can't" do something and we should be just as encouraging to girls as we are to boys and vice versa. If they have the drive, they can succeed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book educated me as to just how strong gender stereotypes can be in school and the workplace. The author has an interesting story on how she overcame non-supportive surroundings and dug deep inwardly to find her own brilliance. As a father of 3 girls, my hope is that they all find careers that they can be passionate at. I found this to be an inspiring book and I feel that after reading it, I'm now better equipped to be a supportive father, husband, and coworker to the many women in my life. I'm glad I bought the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a little bit of an autobiography, but also a "strategy" book for any woman wanting to not only survive, but thrive in science, technology, engineering, and math. Karen Purcell, does an amazing job of combining the two different writing styles to make not only an informative book, but one that is interesting to read as well.

If you are looking for a job in any science, technology, engineering or math related field, this book is a must read.
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on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Being a female myself, I have to say I never really had any hurdles, any issues to deal with because I am a girl/woman. Although I do know these hurdles do indeed exist, and I have 2 daughters that I would hope never have to go through what I see and hear others go through, especially those who are seeking careers in male dominated fields.
I think this is a book that should be handed out at every graduation, to every woman, maybe even the males. Karen Purcell offers some of the most important and most wonderful advice for anybody to succeed in life. She goes into great detail, explaining in a simple to understand way, how to achieve what you want in life, and how to grab a hold of your dreams and thrive.
The fact that she wrote this book to help others, and share her own story of inspiration, makes this book extremely valuable and a book that will be opened up for many days, months and years to come. There really is something in there for everybody.
This book relates to most of us, and can help you gain more knowledge of what you desire, and want in order to become the person you want to be. Whether you are in any of the fields Karen discusses,(STEM), or not, she explains what you must do in order to get there.
STEM is, science, technology, engineering and math. and just like the title states, "Smart Strategies for Women to Thrive..."
I especially liked how the author uses her own story, and how she got interested in sharing her story, and the fact that males actually persuaded her to write this, is another positive to mention here. It shows the author has had some positive role models, and friends, from both sexes, and that alone gives hope for females who are struggling in the workplace and in college.
It really made me think, and more so since I have daughters, but the part where she discusses how college admissions can be when you are a male, entering these fields, (or any other more thought, "male dominated" career), really hits home. Again, I have never personally been in this type of situation, well actually now that I think about it, I have. But not to this degree, and as quick as that situation came about, it was knocked right down.
I forgot for a moment about the time I started bartending about 21 years ago, and a friend of the owners had a son who decided one day he would like to bartend. So, I went in for my shift, and was told that he would be working behind the bar and I would be waiting tables. That was rather upsetting, not that there is anything wrong with waiting tables, but I was on schedule to be behind the bar that night, and this kid who was home from college break decided he was to be back there.
This went on for a week or so, and after several complaints about his lack of skills, and attitude problem with our customers, he was finally knocked back down. Although he still kept his attitude and continued his comments about how in the old days, only the men were bartenders. Well, he wasn't the best bartender and he was certainly the slowest I have seen. The final straw came when his own dad had to wait for awhile for a drink while this kid stood there fixing his hair in the mirror behind the bar.
So, actually, yes, I do recall a time when there was a dilemma in my life/career, and unfortunately, it isn't always so easy to prove that fast. Lucky for the 3 girls who worked there, he just happened to be a little flaky;)
Building confidence is one of the most important lessons we must instill in our children, girls or boys, and this book takes it one step further.
I would recommend this book to students, whether college or high school, any career minded or career women, or men, (Yes, there is so much to absorb from Karen's story) and even anybody who has a daughter or 2 of their own.

** I received a copy of this book in return for my honest review **
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on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Growing up I always loved math. I love to find shortcuts in figuring out the math problems. Sadly, I did not do very well in geometry. Proofs and theorems were not my forte. I think at that point I was more interested in the cute boys in my class. Had someone taken the time to help me, I am sure I would have thrived.

I never enjoyed science. I took the bare minimums in high school and college because I couldn't find it within myself to do much more. Technology and Engineering are way out of my brain capacity. I'm ok with that.

In high school I took Bookkeeping, Law, Business, and Accounting classes. In college I majored in accounting and received my associates. Later in life I received my Bachelors in General Studies with majors in Accounting, Business and Marketing. Now, I am working on my Masters in the same. Business and Marketing. I feel I kept it safe. I thought about law school but the thought of being in school that long didn't interest me. I did toy with the idea of a Math degree but I never felt smart enough. I never got the science part of it.

I would have if someone would have helped me.

And that is what this book does. It helps. Even though I no longer have a desire to change majors or do something else with my life because I am going after my one true love - writing, I do have a 7 year old step daughter who would benefit from me reading this book.

After reading through this book I think it should be required reading for all education professionals. I feel we are in a day and age where all aspects of higher education and careers should be out there for girls to choose from and it makes me sad that we still live in a sexist society.

Not only will it shed some light on these career paths, but it will help open the door and start the conversation. I also highly recommend it to any mother or father because it will help open that door for discussion with your children. We really do live in an era where anyone can become anything they want.
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on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Unlocking Your Brilliance contains Smart Strategies for Women to Thrive in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). It is by Karen Purcell and is a bit of an autobiography as well as a book to help females who are in or considering going into a career in a STEM field.

Karen touches on is how females are not as exposed to these things as they probably should be. I like that now Girl Scouts has badges for robotics and stuff like that - I would have LOVED that when I was a kid - I was the only one who earned the "Ms Fix It" badge in my troop. I'd have enjoyed making robots a lot better than some of the activities that we did. It seems like many companies are trying to reach out to young girls and expose them to the STEM fields and I am all for it. I often voice how I wish that a new hire at work would be a female. Not that I don't like the guys I work with - but it would be nice to have another girl my age around sometimes

If you are considering a job in the STEM fields then I definitely recommend you check out this book - it has a lot of good advice and I wish that I had something like this to read when I was finishing up college. I received a free copy of this book in order to write this review and all opinions are my own.
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on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading this book. Karen writes well and makes an interesting topic entertaining to read about. As someone who is currently in a place in my life where I will need to look into a career, I found this book to be helpful. Though I already have my major and it's not really a STEM major, I still found the information valuable. I'm a Sociology Major, so technically I'm in a Science field, but it's a Social Science, which is a bit different. As a Sociologist, I was fascinated to learn more about the types of stereotypes and issues women in these fields face.

This book would make a great gift for any mother with daughters, high school aged girls or even college aged girls (it's never too late!). Mothers would enjoy this book as a learning to to help guide their daughters into exploring STEM subjects. Students would enjoy learning how they can help further their dreams of a STEM career, or for general career knowledge.

You can read more of this review on my blog at [...]

{Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced. Thank you.}
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on August 20, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
She didn't go as in depth about the issues as I was hoping, and it seemed more bibliographical than inspirational. I think it was probably more geared to middle school/grade school girls than women already in college perusing a STEM field. Was a little disappointed, but would recommend to younger women.
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on September 12, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Purcell mixes personal anecdotes with statistics and observations by other successful women in STEM careers, creating an accessible and useful text.
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