Book Review by Sapphire Ng
Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World
by Joann S. Lublin
Copyright October 2016
Hardcover, 304 Pages
Earning It makes for a rather light, quick and enjoyable read. This book features countless inspirational and candid anecdotes of powerful and intelligent women contending in the male-dominated executive world. Delivered in an exceedingly positive and hopeful tone, this motivational book fittingly speaks to females from all walks of life, and certainly for aspiring female executives. The incredibly inspirational nature of the book of course does not preclude it from being a greatly invigorating read for men, including those keen to gain a deeper understanding of women’s struggles in the executive world.
Narratives of formidable female “trailblazers”—those who successfully ascended to “the pinnacle of management”—are forefronted in the book. Corporate leaders such as Cathie Black, who was the president of Hearst Magazines, and called “the First Lady of American Magazines;” Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Irene Rosenfeld, chief executive of the global snacks manufacturer Mondelez International; Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox Corporation, and more.
Interweaved into these anecdotes of female chief executives are critical matters such as the imperative need to challenge board bias and sexism in the context of pursuing corporate directorship; of actively engaging oneself in the strategic advocacy for other women aspiring to ascend the corporate hierarchy; and the pivotal role of sponsors and mentors in career advancement.
Inseverable from the discussion include notions of gender discrimination and gender stereotypes, manifested in forms such as the inequitable standards required of women versus men in the corporate workplace. With the prevalence of the gender pay gap, the book also shares stories and related advice and morsels of wisdom pertaining to compensation bargaining. There was a rather interesting discussion of strategies employable by women executives particularly in terms of the management of men, especially men inimical to female leadership.
One cited statistic in the book was particularly memorable; the evidence of the appalling disparity in opinion between female and male directors on the importance of board gender diversity. The book covers a range of other intriguing matters, examples include the rather curious notion of women’s self-fabricated glass ceiling; the reassuring implementation of corporate training programs targeting unconscious bias; the concept of diversity dividend; and even brief discussions of the female turnover rate in skilled professions.
The uncorrected proof copy of the book inevitably contains errors expected to be resolved by the time of publication. It is undeniable however that the mistakes littering the pages of the book diminishes the reviewer’s overall enjoyment of the book. It was unpleasant to come across almost every instance of “company” in the book being spelled as “concern”—example sentences include “the first sisters to command Fortune 500 concerns,” “about 54 percent of the sixty-seven concerns in the Standard & Poor’s 1500 Index,” or “big cosmetics concern hired her.”
Whilst the anecdotes in the book are qualifyingly engaging, the introduction however does not do the book justice. The rather cliched approach and ideas adopted alongside bland and ordinary rendering of the subject matter in the introduction fails to distinguish the book from the competitive sea of nonfiction works dealing with a similar subject.
The rather lackluster introduction of the book very unfortunately could potentially translate into lost sales and readership. Particularly in the case of failing to convince or to provide a compelling reason for readers to further engage with the book by virtue of merit of the introduction, or in the instance of those who base their purchase decisions on impressions left by browsing the beginning of the book.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.