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What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know Hardcover – January 17, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This title is many steps beyond Lean In (2013), Sheryl Sandberg’s prescription for getting ahead in business. What Works for Women at Work is filled with street-smart advice and plain old savvy about the way life works in corporate America. Law professor Williams teams up with her daughter to pen an insightful guide for women who want to break through the glass ceiling. It starts by identifying the four behavioral patterns of working women. One, called the “Tug of War,” describes feminine-versus-tomboy instincts. Another, “Prove It Again,” provides no recourse other than being smarter, sharper, and more successful more often than male counterparts. Culled from 127 in-depth interviews, the four behavioral patterns are described in detail and buttressed by anecdotes and examples as well as action plans that are pragmatic and frequently laced with humor. Sidebars like “How to Be a Great Boss” and notes on Michelle Obama’s transformation make for an entertaining must-read. Our favorite quote, from the late Bella Abzug: “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get promoted as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.” --Barbara Jacobs

Review

"This title is many steps beyond Lean In (2013), Sheryl Sandberg’s prescription for getting ahead in business. What Works for Women at Work is filled with street-smart advice and plain old savvy about the way life works in corporate America."-STARRED Booklist

"The book offers an accessible and sound model of problems faced by women climbing the corporate ladder, and presents clear strategies to take while waiting for business to catch up."-Publishers Weekly

“Having sifted through many of the debates about how much women can and should succeed, Williams and Dempsey finally offer a template on how women can do that and how the workforce can support this integration; whether these women are homemakers or management, this book is a confidence booster. A much needed look at what women might want, but what society needs.”-Amy Richards,author of Opting In

"Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey clearly and vividly detail the double standards and the dead ends that so many women face in the workplace. Fortunately, the authors also provide easy-to-follow strategies to counter these scenarios. This book can help women claim their seat at the table and lean in to their careers."-Sheryl Sandberg,author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

"If you’re a working woman searching for the best pocket guide to success at work, here it is. Prove-It-Again, the Tightrope, The Maternal Wall, the Tug of War, Double Jeopardy—the distinguished scholar Joan Williams and her daughter guide women through each of these sticky wickets. Their invaluable advice is no substitute for broader changes in the workplace, they note, but it can help position more women to accomplish that change."-Arlie Hochschild,author of The Outsourced Self

"Much of its advice is solid career counsel for anyone looking to move up...ultimately the tone of this book is quite hopeful...[T]his book's message: If we make ourselves and the men in our lives aware of the roadblocks women still face, and we use some of the many tools the authors offer in this volume, we are likely to see women move ahead more quickly. In fact I wish there were a way to interest men in reading this book. They would get the most out of it."-Susan Adams,Forbes.com

"The book's plentiful examples and suggestions provide smart strategies for federal workers to find work/life balance without calling their commitment to career into question."-Katherine Reynolds Lewis,The Business of Federal Technology

"Deftly combining sociological research with a more casual narrative style, What Works for Women at Work offers unabashedly straightforward advice in a how-to primer for ambitious women....The authors plow nimbly through decades of research, transforming what could have been dry and impenetrable statistics into attention-grabbing revelations." -Debora L. Spar,The New York Times

"Forty years later, gender bias shouldn’t exist in the workplace, but it does, in large part because many of us don’t recognize its most common forms. That’s a pitfall—and for me, at least, a pratfall. Reading What Works for Women at Work would be a good first step in avoiding both."-Theodore Kinni,Strategy and Business

"Written by a mother-daughter duo, this decidedly unwonky examination of gender bias doubles as a playbook on how to transcend and triumph."-Abbe Wright,O, The Oprah Magazine

"Williams and Dempsey provide the essential bridge between research findings on prejudice and discrimination and the problems that women experience at work. Solutions exist, and these authors present them. What Works for Women at Work is a must-read book for everyone committed to creating gender-fair workplaces."-Alice H. Eagly,author of Through the Labyrinth

"The book offers women advice for asking for promotions or pay raises, while acknowledging that women who ask for these things can be considered masculine in ways that might undermine their success. I particularly appreciated reading about the toxic competition between women at work that can also hinder the success of women collectively."-Joshunda Sanders,Salon.com

"[The book] identifies four overall patterns of gender bias that high-achieving career women face."-Jazelle Hunt,Black Voice News

“It’s great to have a smart compilation of helpful suggestions put together not by two self-help gurus but by two women who understand that all their advice might still not be enough. Besides, make no mistake: the guidance they offer is often quite good, and I suspect few women will not find either a strategy they’ve successfully used in the past or one they can utilize in the future within its pages. […] It pretty much sums up what happens to all too many women today.”-Women's Review of Books

"In their compelling new book, Williams (Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law) and Dempsey (a student at Yale Law School who blogs for Huffington Post on women's issues) spell out the two sets of rules, higher standards and closed doors that many women encounter on the job these days."-Kerry Hannon,Forbes

"The insights from cognitive psychology and social psychology, and the tips gleaned from experience, that this book brings to bear on experiences of gender in the workplace are worth learning."-Feminist Economics
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (January 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1479835455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1479835454
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In the Foreword, Anne-Marie Slaughter observes, and I agree, "If women act on the prescriptions I these pages and men begin to understand the deep culturally embedded biases and assumptions that mean a book like thus still needs to be written, the workplace will be a better place, the United States will be more competitive, and the intertwining of work and family life will be easier for all caregivers."

Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey focus on "four crisp patterns that provide the framework for this book." They are Prove-It-Again! (a descriptive bias), the Tightrope (a prescriptive bias), the Maternal Wall (both a descriptive and prescriptive bias), and Tug of War (i.e. between accepting or resisting masculine traditions based on various biases). Williams and Dempsey devote a separate chapter to each of the four patterns. Throughout their lively as well as thoughtful and thought-provoking narrative, they provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel from a wide variety of sources - including their own wide and deep experience - so that their readers will have the tools needed now to navigate the world as they find it.

That said, I commend them for acknowledging, "Simple formulas are highly misleading, not only because different women face different problems but because different women can face different problems at different pints in their careers. The truth is that women have to be politically savvier to survive and thrive in historically male careers." That is, play with much greater skill the hand they are dealt or go find a different game. "Better yet, become the dealer or invent your own game.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can't count the number of times I have made a suggestion in a meeting that was ignored, only to have a man say the same thing 10 minutes later and everybody then thinks it's a great idea. Now I know I'm not the only woman who has felt that way. Joan and her daughter Rachel do an excellent job of identifying patterns of behavior, naming them, understanding them and giving strategies to deal with them. Women lawyers, young and old, should read this book. You don't have to agree with everything or take every idea, but it's essential knowledge for navigating our world.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a psychologist in private practice, and thus a business owner, clinician and mother of young kids. I found this book really resonated with me. I could not put it down, but tore through it. As a nerd, I appreciated the careful literature reviews. The sorts of situations she describes in the book were exactly what lead me to work for other women and eventually to venture out on my own. Wish this book had come out when I was much younger. This would also be a good choice for younger women as well. Lean In is a great start, but I think this one brings the ideas down to the practical level that you can use to make your life better. Highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
If you work in a male-dominated environment and find that you aren’t advancing as quickly as your work should merit, or that there’s gender-related tension, this may be the right book for you. I picked it up simply thinking that the occasional career advice book couldn’t hurt, but didn’t find any takeaways to apply to my own work in the near future.

Despite the title, What Works for Women is long on problems women can face in the workplace, and short on solutions. There are four major problems discussed. First, women’s accomplishments tend to be discredited or forgotten more easily than men’s, and men tend to be viewed as more competent and having better leadership qualities. Second, women are disliked if they’re too aggressive, but not respected if they’re too passive or girly. Third, mothers often aren’t seen as serious employees, or are judged as bad mothers if they are. Fourth, all this pressure can cause women to feel they must compete with each other for a limited number of “female” seats, or to resent or feel the need to dissociate themselves from other women, particularly those who have made different choices.

As far as the discussion of problems, the book is thorough and backs up anecdotes with research. The tone is non-judgmental and the authors take a big-picture view – noting, for instance, that women don’t just make less money because they’re too timid to negotiate; women who do negotiate their salaries are seen as less likeable to work with. So success isn’t simply a matter of overcoming your own ingrained expectations, when those around you have them as well.

How to succeed, then? The book has less to say about that, and much of what it does say is fairly general or obvious.
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This book is an essential read for women entering the workforce, or currently working, who are serious about their career. Truly empowers, as you realize the different forces at play in the workplace, and you understand how to navigate/engage them effectively. While reading, I like highlighting the points I agree with or find insightful, and I ended up highlighting nearly 70% of the book! :) Loved it. I've referred it to all my friends and family.
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