This week, I finished a very delightful book, The Working Girl in a Man’s World: A Guide to Office Politics by Jan Manette. Jan’s a pseudonym, which aside from being cute is relevant here because Jan’s my great-aunt. That’s why I decided to read this book.
The Working Girl in a Man’s World may be nearly 50 years old – published in 1966 – but it is still very relevant. And I’m guessing more useful than a lot of this woman-navigating-man’s-world stuff we get fed now. The reason I say that is Working Girl focuses as much on good business practices as it does on anything gender specific. It just places those business practices in a female context.
In fact, Working Girl’s age is actually a strong point for the book. The author tackles a lot of issues that are no longer discussed, things that have been thrown out over time as either not allowed to be relevant or not allowed to be true, yet they are very true.
For example, Working Girl discusses the affect a woman’s biological cycles can have on her day-to-day life, including her productivity, how she’s feeling, etc. This has become a taboo field in workplace considerations even as women’s cycles have become more accepted general conversation. A woman has to always be as a good as a man, so her monthly issues simply cannot be an issue. Yet that’s not really true. I like that Working Girl acknowledges the issue, presents it as accepted by both men and women and discusses how to deal with it. And by the way, I want couches in ladies rooms again! How awesome.
Another topic that wouldn’t be accepted today but that is skillfully discussed in Working Girl is men’s need to feel important and needed. The past fifty years have pretty much banned men from being allowed to feel this way, or at least acknowledging it, and personally, I think that’s the most damaging part of the women’s movement. We all know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and we all should know you get further building people up than putting them down. Working Girl reminds readers to build up their coworkers and superiors (male and female) and offers some pointers on how to do it.
The chapter on sex in the workplace is fantastic. “What can a married man get you? He can get you (1) pregnant and (2) fired. And then where’s your career?” There’s also chapters on working through tough times at the office, what to do if you decide you don’t want to climb any higher, and helping those coming along below you.
Luckily, there’s still copies of Working Girl available. If you know a working girl, pick one up for her.