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An E-Reader’s Review of ‘Lean In – Women, Work And the Will to Lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg-Part 3

In my previous blog about the book “Lean In” written by Sheryl Sandberg, I discussed my thoughts as I read the book as a career woman. However as you know, I believe the book provides guidance on different aspects of a woman’s life. For Part 3 of this blog post, I read the book as a mother.
Who would have ever thought that a book found in the business section of the bookstore would cause me to examine how my husband and I raise our daughters? Sandberg shares insightful stories about how the leadership gap between men and women begins when girls are young; this had me reflecting on the way I parent. Actually even reading stories about how Sandberg herself was raised was highly instructive to me as a parent.
In talking about the effects of parenting on young girls, Sandberg has definitely done her homework! She is not selling herself as an expert in the field. Instead she relies on reputable studies and research to explain how the leadership gap begins.
After reading this book, I walked away with a belief that parents of young girls need to guard against instilling gender stereotypes, even unintentionally. The results she recounts are haunting : from young girls that lack ambition for leadership positions to cultural messages that unwittingly teach society that these stereotypes are acceptable. Doubting the abilities of our daughters, teaching them to be quiet and ‘nice’, and discouraging behavior that could be perceived as ‘bossy’ or ‘aggressive’ are all actions that pave the road to gender inequality.
Another excellent point raised in the book is the importance of paternal involvement. It has been proven by study after study that fathers have a positive impact on the mental, social and academic well being of a child.
I especially enjoyed reading stories about how Sandberg and her siblings were raised. Of course these stories add a wonderful personal touch not usually found in business books. More than that though, I found them instructive. Let me provide an example that particularly moved me. In one story, Sandberg recounts a disagreement she had with her sister over a lollipop. Despite raising very good arguments on why she should get the last lollipop, Sandberg’s mother made her and her sister reflect on how the other feels; the lollipop was forgotten in lieu of listening and empathy. Whether you are raising a daughter or a son, I think this is a fantastic parenting tip which I now practice on my own children.
Sandberg also explores an issue I myself have at times grappled with : what message am I sending to my daughters when I try ‘to have it all’? After all, our children deserve to know they have choices and will be supported regardless of the decisions they make as individuals, not as a male or as a female. There is an uncertain possibility that I am teaching my daughters an unvoiced lesson as I struggle to maintain balance of having a career and having children. But I digress into a topic likely best discussed in the next blog post.
E-reader’s Opinion: Parents, teachers and caregivers of both young boys and girls can learn something from this book. Sandberg takes some of the top research into parenting and presents it concisely and succinctly. What can you do to raise your daughters to be leaders? What can you do to raise your sons to respect women leaders? What can we do to raise a generation where students, employees, and parents are judged only by their individual skills and not by gender biases? The book is worth a read by anyone caring for young children.

Your E-reader reviewer is Hetal Kushwaha, Liaison – International Practice, Marks & Clerk Canada. She would like to emphasize that this is just her personal opinion and it is not intended to represent the views of Marks & Clerk Canada. She can be reached at
hkushwaha@markclerk.com

Part 2: An E-Reader’s Review of ‘Lean In – Women, Work And the Will to Lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg

In my previous blog on the book “Lean In” written by Sheryl Sandberg, I talked about the different perspectives I have when I read the book. Sandberg explores so many issues that the book is like an onion with multiple layers ready to peel back. The career woman in me reads so much into the advice she offers. The mother in me is struck by the revelations Sandberg uncovers about my role in my daughters’ lives. The working mother in me appreciates the honesty Sandberg dishes. Let’s see if we can go through these various perspectives and issues of this onion without shedding any tears!

For Part 2 of this blog post, I read the book as a career woman. As such, I appreciate the credibility supporting Sandberg’s advice. Sandberg is obviously a very accomplished business woman and her stories – both failures and successes – offer so much insight. The advice Sandberg offers is truly advice I wish I had been given a decade ago. The differences between men and women are amplified in the work place. The problem of course becomes that we can’t be stereotypical women, but we also cannot mirror men. Both of these extremes will work to hinder our career growth.
Sandberg highlights the contradictions and dichotomies we face, and challenges head on the uncomfortable question: what’s a woman to do as she tries to become a leader?
What I get from reading Sandberg’s book is that to break free of the chains of gender discrimination and to grow as a leader, women need to accept gender differences and women need to learn to deal with them. Take for example, the expectation of advancement. Sandberg writes “[h]ard work and results should be recognized by others, but when they aren’t, advocating for oneself becomes necessary”. This quote rings close to home for me. I have historically believed that a strong work ethic brings its own reward; unfortunately that is not how the world works. Hard work alone will not guarantee the offer of a promotion, the opportunity to work on a high profile assignment, or the chance to participate in a major business development trip.
Sandberg also writes that “[i]t’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” This quote reminds us that women tend to sit back and wait instead of being proactive in taking charge of a situation. Women need to take the opportunities when they are presented.
All good tips, right? But at this point, I really want to say “Thanks, Sheryl. But how do I advocate for myself, how do I seize the opportunity, how do I achieve growth without risking the stigma of being labelled?” Thankfully, Sandberg didn’t leave me hanging. She offers what I consider to be the number one, all-encompassing advice:
“The goal of a successful negotiation is to achieve our objectives and continue to have people like us”.

Sandberg teaches that women must come off as both ‘nice’ and ‘legitimate’. To me, this is the heart of the issue; balancing assertiveness with likeability. Allow me to sum up her sage advice in one word: smile. Assert yourself, with a smile. Offer a contradictory opinion, with a smile. Voice your idea, with a smile.
The book is full of great strategies for a junior woman to employ. These are no holds barred tactics that maneuver around the political facts of career life.
While there is so much about this book I love, I have to admit there is one assertion Sandberg makes that I have an issue with. She writes “[r]ecognizing the role emotions play and being willing to discuss them makes us better managers, partners, and peers.” Note that I didn’t say I disagree with Sandberg on this point. I agree with her; I believe emotion and empathy can improve relationships and are critical for enduring success.
That being said, my concern is that a junior career woman could consider Sandberg’s statement as permission for emotional freedom in the office, and in doing so may find herself being negatively labelled. Sandberg has had amazing male leaders that embrace emotion in the workplace. Hopefully one day, with continued evolution, we will all enjoy the benefits of such enlightened leaders. But for now, in my opinion, this is not a fight for a junior woman to take on.
To me, Sandberg’s statement is a call to action for established women leaders. If women in senior positions can prove to male leaders that emotion and success are not mutually exclusive, then perhaps the landscape will evolve. But until that happens or unless one is in such a culture already, I do not believe junior women should be emotional within office walls.
Perhaps it is just another truth we just need to accept and deal with: women should not exhibit too much emotion in the office. Is it really unlike accepting that a woman must be likeable when being assertive?

What other advice does Sandberg offer female senior leaders? Talk about the issues. Encourage change in the office to support your junior women. Enlist the cooperation of your male colleagues.
If you’ve read the book and have put into practice any of Sandberg’s advice, let me know. Share your story about what has worked or what did not work. After all, as Sandberg writes “[t]he more women help one another, the more we help ourselves”.

E-reader’s Opinion: If you are a junior career woman, you will find something of use in this book. From hard-hitting truths to specific guidance, I am sure you will finish this book feeling at least a little more empowered. But I think those that will get the most out of the book are those already in senior leadership roles, male and female. Enduring change will trickle from the top. As wonderful as this book is, I really hope that in 40 years there is no need for someone else to write another book like it.

Your E-reader reviewer is Hetal Kushwaha, Liaison – International Practice, Marks & Clerk Canada. She would like to emphasize that this is just her personal opinion and it is not intended to represent the views of Marks & Clerk Canada. She can be reached at
hkushwaha@markclerk.com

An E-Reader’s Review of ‘Lean In – Women, Work And the Will to Lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg

For those of you who don’t know, I am Canadian. In keeping with the generally-accepted stereotype of Canada, hockey is a pretty popular sport in this country. During the Sochi games, Canucks of all ages watched the Canadian Women’s Olympic hockey team win the gold medal in, arguably, one of the most exciting hockey games in Canadian history.

Why do I bring this up? Well, my daughters’ school allowed the children to watch the hockey game during school hours (THIS is how important hockey is to us). My 9 year old came home that day, very excited about the win, and exclaimed “The boys at school say that if the women can win gold, the men will definitely win gold when they play”.

Hmmmm.

Now don’t get me wrong. My national pride wanted the Canadian Men’s Olympic hockey team to bring home the gold too. But at that moment, my feminist pride shot up to stark attention. How do these young children learn these gender biases? What does my daughter feel when she hears things like that? And why on earth was this bothering me so much? It bothered me because of Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In – Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”.

I’ve read a lot of books that provide practical guidance for women who strive to reach the top. But in my opinion, this book isn’t like the others. Sure, on a very basic level, Sandberg stokes feminist fire to urge women to lean into their career and reach for the top. She shares her personal failures and successes, and even provides a few applicable tips. But this book is so much more than a how-to guide. This book is like an onion with multiple layers that need to be peeled apart. In her book, she probes through the mess and gets to the heart of why, she believes, there are not enough women leaders – the role society plays, the role the current leadership landscape plays, and the role we ourselves play.

Everyone who has read this book has an opinion about Sandberg’s position. The funny thing is I find myself having two opinions on this book. When I read this book as a career woman, I come away with one viewpoint. When I read this book as a mother, I come away with a second viewpoint. And note that these two viewpoints are not necessarily disparate or contradictory – they are just two separate viewpoints.

If you’ll indulge me, I would like to try something different. I am going to provide three reviews of this book. The first will be my opinion of the book as a career woman. The second will be my opinion of the book as a mother. With the third review, I am going to look at the book from the perspective of a mother who loves her children AND her career.

E-reader’s Opinion: Stay tuned! My E-Reader take-away is forthcoming.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t know: the Canadian Men’s Olympic hockey team also won gold…but not because they are men.

Your E-reader reviewer is Hetal Kushwaha, Liaison – International Practice, Marks & Clerk Canada. She would like to emphasize that this is just her personal opinion and it is not intended to represent the views of Marks & Clerk, Canada. She can be reached at
hkushwaha@markclerk.com

An E-Reader’s Review of “Persuasion” by Arlene Dickinson

It is an easily supported premise that there are many successful American female lawyers and businesswomen that have penned remarkable books. I have had the immense privilege of reviewing a few of them for this blog. This time though, I decided to venture a little further afield – north to Canada, to be more specific. Arlene Dickinson is CEO of a Canadian marketing company and is most well known for her role on Dragons’ Den (the Canadian equivalent to Shark Tank). Dickinson’s book “Persuasion” is an informative and enjoyable read that puts her climb from her father’s couch to the top of the Canadian business landscape under the microscope.

The full Arlene Dickinson is on display through this book as she recounts her start as a recently-divorced woman with a highschool education trying to get custody of her four children. Her success is largely based on her skills in persuasion. But she quickly draws an unambiguous distinction between “Principled Persuasion” and unethical manipulation. She so strongly believes in this distinction, that a good portion of the book is dedicated to teaching the reader how to avoid being manipulated themselves.

Dickinson then goes on to set out what persuasion entails in her mind: honesty, authenticity and reciprocity. What creates interest and diversity in her writing are the various viewpoints from which she approaches her teachings. She discusses persuasion as she used it to rise in her career. She discusses persuasion as she still uses it to pitch to clients. And she discusses how others try to persuade her. She seems to spare no intimate detail in her real life “messy” experiences to support her opinions.

We all need to persuade people, from our bosses for job assignments to our kids to do homework, and Dickinson’s teachings are universally applicable in various scenarios. That being said, Chapter Eleven is dedicated to persuasion in a professional setting. Dickinson starts the journey at the very beginning: how do you persuade someone to even let you pitch (pitching can be a client pitch, a job interview, etc.)? Once you’re in the door, how do you persuade your client/potential employer/current boss? By reflecting honesty, authenticity and reciprocity combined with factual evidence, Dickinson believes you can put your best self forward.

In my opinion, one of the best teaching tools in this book is the use of examples that contrast one another. In Chapter Eleven, she provides one example of a cold call she received that did not persuade her, and one example of an introductory email that did persuade her.

Being a Canadian businesswoman, Dickinson’s narratives are in the context of homegrown examples, such as Calgary and Bay Street in Toronto (rather than, say, Boston and Wall Street in New York). This differentiates the read from other business books and adds a lot of interest. Plus the sprinkles of references to inventors’ pitches from Dragons’ Den are sure to bring a smile to us IP types.

E-reader’s Opinion: Dickinson and her book are worth a spot on your bookshelf in the office. Admittedly the actual teachings of how to persuade are introduced quite late in the book. However the teachings are so rich and applicable, that the late introduction is forgivable. If nothing else, the fresh, personal approach of these business teachings will leave you a little richer in knowledge. If I persuaded you to read this Canadian book, drop me an email and let me know your thoughts…eh?

Your E-reader reviewer is Hetal Kushwaha, Liaison – International Practice, Marks & Clerk Canada. She would like to emphasize that this is just her opinion and it is not intended to represent the views of Marks & Clerk, Canada. She can be reached at hkushwaha@markclerk.com.

An E-Reader’s Review of “Pushback” by Selena Rezvani

Despite all of our progress and growing self-assurance, women still don’t like to negotiate aggressively. That’s according to Selena Rezvani, author of a new book entitled ‘Push back’. It’s not exactly a eureka-worthy proposition, but it is one that merits repeating ….again.

Rezvani proposes two main reasons for our reluctance to embrace a push back style of negotiation. The first is that we tend to place a higher value on relationships than on agenda. The second is our general tendency towards perfection.

Whether or not you agree with Rezvani’s assessments, existence of the problem cannot be denied. In reading Rezvani’s book, I found her approach to tackle the problem to be deliberate and purposeful. The book is organized so that Rezvani can lead the reader along a path to comfortably push back during a negotiation. Rezvani reminds the reader why she must push back, guides her to discover her push back style, and then teaches the tools she needs to execute her negotiation. The tools include detailed instructions on how to move through each of the four steps: prepare psychologically, do homework, manoeuvre through the negotiation itself and follow up post negotiation.

Rezvani also conducted several interviews to uncover advice and inspiration from women who have successfully pushed back in their own careers. She intertwines these wonderful words of wisdom amongst the practical tools she teaches. The result is a book that satisfies both the how to push back and the inspiration to push back.

While the title of the book seems to suggest a purely raw, almost macho approach to negotiation, Rezvani beautifully balances the fact that a woman must push back in her career with the acceptance that relationships are to be valued. She writes “…a true negotiation relies on interdependence. We need to convince and work with the other side to get what we want”.

While Rezvani isn’t breaking new ground with this book, she is still doing a great service to women by forcing us to continually remember that we have a responsibility to manage our own careers and to push back. She helps the reader fight the need for perfectionism and shows her how to push back without de-valuing the relationship with the other negotiating party.

E-reader’s Opinion: If you find yourself with a negotiation on the horizon, reading this book could help improve your skills to maximize that negotiation. Even if you feel you have the practical skills to push back, the advice from the women that Rezvani interviewed might serve to elevate and uplift you before heading into that negotiation.

Your E-reader reviewer is Hetal Kushwaha, Liaison – International Practice, Marks & Clerk Canada. She would like to emphasize that this is just her opinion and it is not intended to represent the views of Marks & Clerk, Canada. She can be reached at hkushwaha@markclerk.com.

An E-Reader’s Review of “Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire” by Mireille Guiliano

Mireille Guiliano is the celebrated author of the “French Women” books, neither of which have I read. However, I am forever trying to find a way to be a suave, sophisticated, working mother. You know, the one that has it all together. Think: the perfect fusion of Patty Hewes from the show “Damages” and Mrs. Brady from “The Brady Bunch”. This book seemed to be the blueprint of such a creature.

Savoir Faire is French for “know-how”. Guiliano is a native of France who transfers to work in New York City. The author is very clear that she is not going to teach the reader how to get the corner office or how to secure that promotion. But she seems to be trying to be an overall mentor to the reader. Indeed, it seems she is trying to be the mentor she never had early on in her own career.

So what “know-how” is she providing the reader? Really, what general know-how does she not provide in this book? This is a book that touches on all the genres. Guiliano covers business etiquette, fashion sense, branding, and even entertaining (I have never read a business book that includes recipes!).

Throughout all of the information, or savoir-faire, shared with the reader, there is one common theme: the only thing constant in life is change. She refers to life as a series of episodes and stages. She acknowledges that passions change. She admits that even her own life/business plan changed when she met her husband. Part of that common thread is the notion that the change in life can be controlled to be in line with our own current goals. She refers to this as acting in “enlightened self interest”.

Guiliano brings a unique touch to this business book, with cross-cultural references between France and America. The book is peppered with her own stories of professional growth and personal experiences. She is not an academic; she is life-learned.

The style of the book, while witty, charming and illustrative, is not a light read. This is not a book where the reader can quickly locate and re-read a passage for a quick refresher. Each of the chapters have clever, creative titles, but they are not necessarily transparent. I would consider the book to be a great vacation read rather than a business reference book.

E-Reader’s Opinion: Guiliano is a well-travelled, cross-cultural, savvy business woman with a lot of savoir-faire to share. This is a wonderful read for anyone who enjoys a cute-flirty take on the business world. But for a serious go-getter, this book is lacking practical and concrete teachings on how to break through that glass ceiling. I was initially hoping for Patty Hewes meets Mrs. Brady, but instead this book delivers more Ally McBeal meets Martha Stewart.

Your e-reader reviewer is Hetal Kushwaha, Liaison – International Practice, Marks & Clerk Canada. She would like to emphasize that this is just her opinion and it is not intended to represent the views of Marks & Clerk Canada.

Ask for it: How women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

Review: This fascinating book describes how women can learn to do what men have been doing all along–asking for what they want. The authors found that many women were reluctant to negotiate starting salaries, raises, bonuses etc. We often have a tendency to think that our supervisors and peers will automatically recognize our hard work and will reward us accordingly, and then feel frustrated when this is not always the case. However, this book teaches us that we can ask for what we want and need in the workplace and in our personal lives, and gives us the tools with which to do it. A must-read!