What Works for Women at Work

Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know

394 pages

55 information boxes illustrations

January, 2014

ISBN: 9781479835454

$24.95

Cloth

Also available in

Authors

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.

All books by Joan C. Williams

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.

All books by Rachel Dempsey

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.

All books by Anne-Marie Slaughter

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.

Reviews

  • "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

  • "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

  • "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

  • “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

  • "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 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

  • "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

  • "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

  • "I would love to see a world where men, as well as women, mix the masculine and the feminine. In fact, much of contemporary leadership advice recommends a collaborative style for everyone. But what we have is a world where men get a pass when they do things—such as exercise authority, express anger, self-promote—that often triggers pushback when women do them. This double standard reinforces the idea that women should be selfless and noncompetitive, self-effacing and nice; should always think of others; and should never, ever interrupt."

    —Joan C. Williams , Washington Post

  • "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 book] identifies four overall patterns of gender bias that high-achieving career women face."

    —Jazelle Hunt, Black Voice News

  • "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

  • "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

  • "Based on interviews with dozens of successful women in professional fields and academia, the book is full of anecdotes and highly readable.  But what sets it apart from the crowded field of advice literature is its solid grounding in research - hundreds of studies showing how bias affects the decisions and behavior of even those who think they are the most fair-minded....What Works for Women at Work is an eye-opening, thought-provoking, and above all practical handbook for every woman who works.  It should be required reading for every manager - male or female."

    —Hilary Appelman , Yale Alumni Magazine

  • "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

  • "This book is filled with street-smart advice and plain old savvy about the way life works in corporate America as the authors provide an insightful guide for women who want to break through the glass ceiling."

    —, Booklist