Women & equality

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Untamed

Glennon Doyle

I read many great reviews, and the odd grumpy one. So decided to make this the last book review of 2020.

In this book Glennon Doyle describes how everyone is caged. Caged by how we are brought up, by our own (or other people's) beliefs. How we continuously breathe in toxicity in the form of sexism, racism and violence. How we try to escape it and numb ourselves with booze, drugs, sugar and consumerism.

Whilst we are already whole underneath it all. Ready to escape our cages.

This book gives a personal account of that journey. From caged to untamed. From stuffed into boxes to wild.

A lot of great learning in this book. Yes, focused on women, but with a lot of lessons for all of us.We are all caged, by society, by our upbringing, by our own (outdated) beliefs of who we ought to be. Time to become who we always were.

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Women and Power

Mary Beard

Mary Beard's Women and Power is a compilation of two of her speeches, about Women's voices and Women and Power. The first explains how women being silenced by men is age old and can be found in texts as far back as the old Greek and Romans. (What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, setting the scene for women hardly ever being heard for one!)

The second speech is about women in power. And how - much too often - women have had to turn themselves into men to be able to take these positions of power. And how women for ever are being seen to be outside power, having to make their way in. 

Mary Beard makes the case to change the system, so that it can work for men and women alike, but unfortunately that is where it stops! The format of this book presumably does not allow for further exploration of what this new system could look like or how we would go about achieving it. It left me certainly looking for more ...

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Why men win at work

Gill Whitty-Collins

I've read a lot of books on gender inequality at work. So, why this book?

Because it gives a hands-on clear view of why - well - men win at work, frankly. And what we should do about it. With a great checklist and some real eye-openers.

But you know what?

I'm worried:
For all the women who are fed up. With the politics. The brick wall they run into. The not being listened to. The lack of progression.

Because every book I read - rightly - says that ignoring 50% of your workforce does not make any business sense. But that nothing actually changes.

That we ask men to bring about change. But - if men always win at work - there never will be an incentive for them to do so.

That this crisis will keep men winning at work. And women will keep running into this brick wall (or glass ceiling. Different material, same result).

Read this book. And know what SHOULD happen.

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Work like a woman

Mary Portas

It's time for a mini-revolution. That's effectively what Mary Portas is telling us in her book.

Because if anyone thinks that gender equality in the workplace has been achieved then think again!

A while back I talked about the barriers women encounter in the workplace (as described by Michelle King in her book The Fix).

Mary Portas shows how she has encountered these same experiences. Having to fit into alpha male stereotypical behaviour to get on. Working all hours. How this doesnt fit a lot of people's ideal of having a 'circular' career (where life and work fit seamlessly together).

Mary Portas gives some useful tips for women at every stage of their career and life. To help change cultures. To start this mini revolution.

Having read The Fix by Michelle King this book re-emphasizes the need to start making changes. Not just for women, but for and with men too!

You know it makes (business) sense!

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The Fix

Michelle P. King

It's not you. It's the workplace.

That's the big message from this book.

It's the workplace that is inherently inequal, sexist, yes, misogynistic even.

And no matter how much self-development, confidence building and leadership skills activities we undertake if the workplace doesn't change then chances for career progression, leadership and ultimately equality in the workplace are looking slim for women.

A sobering message. Brought by someone who knows, as Michelle King has been active in inclusivity and diversity all her life including for the UN.

The good news is:
1. It's not us. It's the workplace. And the more we are aware of this the better prepared. Michelle King identifies no fewer than 17 barriers women will encounter throughout their career, so we better get reading!
2. There are ways to fix this, and the author gives lots of suggestions on how leaders can make this happen. Culture can be fixed.
3. By fixing inequality men also no longer have to conform to the stereotypical 'ideal' worker (you know: male, white, heterosexual, long hours, no notable home life). There's something in it for everyone.
4. With a changing world the workplace needs female leaders!

There's lots to say about this book. But for now I'll finish with this: an absolute must-read for all leaders male and female!

The Guilty Feminist

Deborah Frances-White

Deborah Frances-White is a stand-up comedian and feminist. She has a weekly podcast called The Guilty Feminist in which she invites fellow female comedians to talk about feminist issues. Each podcast starts with the sentence 'I 'm feminist, but ...' and is about embracing feminism whilst also recognising that we are not perfect. 

 

I'm a feminist but ... the word intersectionality never really spoke to me. I never really engaged with it. Until this book.

 

Not only do I now understand much better what the word intersectionality means - e.g. that there are women who are not only treated differently because they are female, but they also feel less included because of their disability, or race, because of their sexuality or because they are transgender. 

Also, the fact that I had not really engaged with the word intersectionality was precisely because I am white, and therefore more privileged. 

 

In the book Deborah Frances-White also debunks (once and for all?) the myth that feminists should be as one. Like any group, feminists are not one homogenous group of women. Yes, feminists believe that women shouldn't be excluded for the sole reason of their gender. That doesn't mean that feminists can't disagree on a myriad of other issues! 

 

I love a book that teaches me things. And this book has really made me aware of my privilege. And on the need to actively include people. It leaves me wit a lot to ponder. 

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Invisible women - Exposing data bias in a world designed for men

Caroline Criado Perez

The lady at the library said 'I hope you enjoy it. It's a great book. It made me feel pretty angry!'

Every now and then you have to read something that fires you up. That makes you realise that, no, women are not treated equal to men. And actually, at this moment in time, things are getting worse, not better!

This book points out how a lack of data leads to decisions being made which are detrimental to women. Where men are still seen as the 'norm' and where data about women are routinely either not collected or not used to make better decisions that would not just benefit men. In the workplace, in daily life, in public life and in design of spaces and buildings. 

The solution? Representation of women everywhere. And women supporting and helping each other. So that voices will be heard and female data are being considered when making decisions.

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You are a badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life

Jen Sincero

This book came highly recommended by a friend of mine, especially for the 'money' section. This is a book that - even in the eyes of the author herself - doesn't say anything new, but says it in a new way. Jen Sincero is a firm believer in positive thinking, in meditation as a way to get in contact with yourself and the universe, in opening yourself up to what you want and go and make it happen. 

The money section meanwhile is aimed at getting you to have a different relationship with money, to not be scared of money and to believe that you are worthy of the money you receive for the work you do. 

This book is a very easy to read compilation of a lot of self-help books. Straight talking, but with a strong focus on spirituality (Jen is a strong believer in 'abundance' and surrendering to the universe to get what you want), I found this an easy and energising read. And yes, I am going to have to have a good look at my own relationship with money now!

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Create a gender-balanced workplace

Ann Francke

I'm a big fan of the library. And without it I would never have picked up this rather unassuming book. 

 

This book - which I read in one sitting - is absolutely filled to the brim with data and statistics about gender equality in the workplace and what you - as an individual (woman or man), and as a manager and leader - can do in your organisation to progress gender equality. 

 

It was disconcerting to read how far off we still are from having achieved gender equality. But even more disconcerting to find how men in  leadership now show signs of 'gender fatigue', thinking 'we've done this now'!

 

With women still experiencing everyday sexism in the workplace, with open or covert bias still leading to women being overlooked for promotions and not being able to step up the career ladder as quickly as men and - of course - with a median gender pay gap of 11.9% (here in the UK), which at this rate will not close for another 100 years (!), there is still lots to do! 

 

This is mandatory reading for all leaders in any organisation. Come to think of it: it is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to be able to achieve their full potential in the workplace, regardless of their gender. 

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Playing Big

Tara Mohr

 

Tara Mohr is one of the women who over the last few years have published books on how we all should stop hiding, take responsibility and 'play big'.

 

You might remember Tara Mohr's book for her key recommendations on how women should stop the excessive use of words like 'sorry', 'please', but also 'does that make sense' and 'I probably got this wrong but ...' (sounding  familiar to anyone?).

 

As it happens I read this book at the same time as the book 'Lean in' by Sheryl Sandberg and an article in the NY Times about the need for men to 'lean out' more. 

 

And whilst I love this book because of the encouragement, the potential for personal development and the easy to follow steps to overcoming your own demons and becoming who you know you are, it did make me wonder two things:

  • If we aim  to reduce gender equality, why does the emphasis seem to be so much on women's personal development (as opposed to men's)?

  • What incentive do we need to offer men to engage them in the quest for gender equality? 

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Feminist Fight Club

Jessica Bennett

 

This book comes highly recommended. By Sheryl Sandberg herself. Who actually contributed to it. 

The book aims to give you short and snappy 'fight moves' and 'hacks' to battle sexism in the workplace. For you. For others. And yes, if any men are reading this, for you feminist men as well. 

Now, for anyone who has read as many feminist books as I have, the tips in this book are not new. 

What IS new though is the bitesize way the different topics (and the fight moves) are presented. With funny cartoons (I'm a big fan of cartoons), actionable quick tricks, and clearly articulated ways of:

Identifiying your enemy

Recognising the 'traps' you can fall into in a sexist workplace

Communicating in an impactful way

Getting paid better, and

Picking and choosing the tactics that work for men (without becoming one) - or, in other words, What Would Josh (a distinctly average white male) Do. 

Great book. Easty to read. Fantastic cartoons. Actionable - well - actions!

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Wander Woman

Marcia Reynolds

 

This is a book for high-achieving women who feel restless. They're not lacking confidence, but they're not content, always on the move, always looking at what's next.

Marcia Reynolds is a master coach and has helped her fair share of women navigate their way up the corporate ladder, finding satisfaction in middle management or in their own business.

A book about restlessness was always going to appeal. Even more so as the focus is on women who are more likely to move jobs in search for meaning and impact (rather than prestige and money).

The book gives examples and exercises on how to find meaning, support and become much more focused in your career.

So often books about women talk about lack of confidence. To read one that focuses on women who don't have that issue is refreshing in it's own right.

The value of this book is in recognition. in a sense of belonging, of knowing that you're not the only one. It may do the same for you too!

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The descent of men

Grayson Perry

I remember posting a question on LinkedIn, asking 'what incentive will it take for men to support gender equality?'

In this book Grayson Perry is on his way to provide an answer.

And the answer is the freedom to embrace a different kind of masculinity. One that does no longer comply with the laws (or straightjacket) of the old outdated views of what masculinity is. The outdated views that only serve a small percentage of the population. And leaves others frustrated and depressed.

I learnt a lot from this book. About how men view the world. How the rules of masculinity lead to a prison for men.

Grayson Perry doesn't profess to have a clear set of new 'rules'. But offers some guidelines. Around the ability to show and manage emotions, to be vulnerable, to find ways of being a man that align with your values, rather than a very strict set of rules that apply today.

As I say, it's not providing us with the answer. Because that answer is still to be defined. Yes, by men, but supported by women. In a world that is governed by the same people who have benefited from the current view of masculinity. (Yeah, no one said it was going to be easy!)