How Women Rise

I’ve recently started reading more personal and professional development books, particularly targeted at women, probably because I’m having a minor panic around turning 30 in July! I’m assessing where I am in my career and personal life and what I can work upon as I enter this next phase of my life as an actual grown-up.

I was recommended ‘How Women Rise’ by a female mentor of mine at work during one of our quarterly women’s breakfasts. I work on a project team where senior women are severely under-represented, and we’ve been making strides through our Inclusion and Diversity programmes to provide networking opportunities and forums for raising concerns, with particular focus on retention of our more junior women. However, despite their well-meaning intentions, these activities can sometimes feel a little flat without definitive takeaway actions. Once I finished reading ‘How Women Rise,’ written by leadership expert Sally Helgesen and leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith, I came away feeling genuinely inspired and ready to make some meaningful changes. This is a well-structured, logical piece of professional development, explaining how to identify habits that may be holding me back professionally as well as providing tangible actions and skills on how to tackle them to achieve short-term goals and long-term goals. If you’re curious as to some reasons why there is such a gender inequality in the workplace between women and men, you need to read this book.

If you’re looking for fictional book reviews, then check out This is London and The Secret River

The book is structured into three parts;

  • On Being Stuck
  • The Habits That Keep Women from Reaching Their Goals
  • Changing for the Better

Part one is an introduction on why women may find that they stagnate at certain levels, facing specific and different challenges to men as they advance. Sally and Marshall are blunt; ‘what got you here won’t get you there…and you might not even realise your blind spots until it’s too late.’

For interesting further reading on the topic, check out this Harvard Business Review on Why Gender Balance Can’t Wait

Part two provides a deep dive into each of the 12 most typical habits that hold women back from achieving their career goals, comparing and contrasting these with common behaviours seen in professional men. Sally and Marshall have identified these habits through years of study and interviews and provide numerous real-world examples across a variety of professions to better articulate the crux of the issues. The habits that particularly resonated with me included;

  • Habit 1: Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements – not self-promoting, assuming everyone will know what a great job you’re doing, being inclusive and stating ‘we did a great job’ when you actually did it alone
  • Habit 7: The Perfection Trap – an obsession with being perfect and not making any errors, at the detriment to progression
  • Habit 9: Minimising – minimising your own importance, starting sentences with ‘sorry’ or ‘I just need,’ automatically implying that you are not worthy of taking this person’s precious time.
  • Habit 11: Ruminating – constantly over-analysing every little mistake you’ve made and not being able to let go and move on. Last year I had one terse conversation with a manager who previously has given me nothing but praise. I then went out of my way to avoid them for the next 4 months, obsessing over that one unpleasant conversation and convinced he hated me. When next interacting in what could have been a controversial situation, he was genial, friendly and concerned over my well-being, highlighting to me that whilst he may have been irritated with me on that one occasion, he promptly forgot about it and moved on. I need to learn to do the same.

Part three provides you with methods, skills and actions to make a long-lasting change. Professional negative habits are like any bad habit and take time and persistence to change. I’m committed to getting rid of ‘we’ when talking about work accomplished solely by myself, to stop saying ‘just’ when I request information or help that is critical to me doing my job and taking up mindfulness again to help me move away from ruminating. Watch this space!

Author: Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
Rating: 4/5
Buy: How Women Rise

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