What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Knowby Joan C. Williams, Rachel Dempsey
An essential resource for any working woman, What Works for Women at Work is a comprehensive and insightful guide for mastering office politics as a woman. Authored by Joan C. Williams, one of the nation’s most-cited experts on women and work, and her daughter, writer Rachel Dempsey, this unique book offers a multi-generational perspective into the realities of today’s workplace. Often women receive messages that they have only themselves to blame for failing to get ahead—Negotiate more! Stop being such a wimp! Stop being such a witch! What Works for Women at Work tells women it’s not their fault. The simple fact is that office politics often benefits men over women. Based on interviews with 127 successful working women, over half of them women of color, What Works for Women at Work presents a toolkit for getting ahead in today’s workplace. Distilling over 35 years of research, Williams and Dempsey offer four crisp patterns that affect working women: Prove-It-Again!, the Tightrope, the Maternal Wall, and the Tug of War. Each represents different challenges and requires different strategies—which is why women need to be savvier than men to survive and thrive in high-powered careers. Williams and Dempsey’s analysis of working women is nuanced and in-depth, going far beyond the traditional cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approaches of most career guides for women. Throughout the book, they weave real-life anecdotes from the women they interviewed, along with quick kernels of advice like a “New Girl Action Plan,” ways to “Take Care of Yourself”, and even “Comeback Lines” for dealing with sexual harassment and other difficult situations. Up-beat, pragmatic, and chock full of advice, What Works for Women at Work is an indispensable guide for working women.
Law professor Williams (Unbending Gender) and her daughter, Dempsey, a student at Yale Law School, share social psychology resources as well as insights from 127 members of the New Girls’ Network, a group of female executives, in order to elucidate four systemic trends that affect women in the workplace. “Prove-It-Again!” means that women must continually demonstrate their competence. “The Tightrope” is the challenge of being perceived as too masculine or too feminine, both of which can engage negative stereotypes. The “Maternal Wall” reflects the competing social roles of employee and mother. The “Tug of War” is the real or perceived hindrance of women in the workplace by one another. The authors effectively explore how gender bias affects women in different generations. Overall, the authors offer a two-pronged message to readers: 1) these issues are not your fault; 2) here’s what you can do to counteract the problem. In addition, an NSF-funded study allowed Williams to interview 60 female scientists of color to explore the intersection of gender and racial stereotype and bias. 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 culture to catch up. Agent: Roger S. Williams, New England Publishing Assoc. (Feb.)
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
“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
"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
- New York University Press
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Meet the Author
Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law. Her books include Unbending Gender: Why Work and Family Conflict and What to Do About It and Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.
Rachel Dempsey is a writer and student at Yale University’s School of Law. Her work has appeared online in publications such as The Huffington Post and Psychology Today, among others.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. From 2009–2011 she served as Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State, the first woman to hold that position.
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