A Fortune 50 executive who climbed the corporate ladder shares how young women can replicate her professional success.
When debut author DeBok embarked on her career in the early 1990s, the business world was still very much a boys’ club. Through trial and error, she learned how to deal with an often hostile environment. Now, she “offers advice on how women can work within the male culture without abandoning female strengths such as collaboration, communication and empathy.” The book covers topics like overcoming perfectionism, learning how to lead and negotiate, managing emotions, and dealing with sexual harassment. Her belief is that women must bend to a male-dominated office culture (the “fitting in” of the title) while still using their stereotypically feminine traits—like strong communication skills—to do their jobs better and get ahead, thus “standing out” from their male peers. Some of the advice is not specific to women but applies to all people who are just starting out in their careers. Readers are sensibly urged to be punctual, prepare for meetings, and seize networking opportunities. DeBok also covers issues more pertinent to women, like negotiating salary, maintaining a professional appearance, handling flirtatious co-workers and their jealous wives, and even preparing for golf outings. Though not groundbreaking, the on-point guidance should be helpful for young women pursuing jobs in conservative, traditional companies. But those in less buttoned-up fields might find the author’s perspective a bit dated. The section on how to dress doesn’t address increasingly casual work environments where jeans and sneakers, not business suits, are the norm, nor does she discuss how to get ahead in an industry where the leaders are female, not male. Also absent is advice on a critical issue for many young women: balancing a career with starting a family. While there is general talk of work-life balance, DeBok is mum on topics like maternity leave and the pros and cons of taking time off to raise kids. But when it comes to the day-to-day business of navigating the working world, there are plenty of practical lessons here.
Worthwhile guidance for women aiming for the corner office.