Book: What Works for Women at Work

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What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know

Rachel Dempsey, student at Yale Law School, and Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California-Hastings College of Law.

(New York University Press)

“What Works for Women at Work” is a guide for mastering office politics as a woman. Authors Joan C. Williams and her daughter, Rachel Dempsey, offer a multi-generational perspective into the realities of today’s workplace. They contend women receive messages that they have only themselves to blame for failing to get ahead, such as “negotiate more,” “stop being such a wimp,” and “stop being such a witch.” This book tells women that “it’s not their fault.” The fact is, the authors argue, 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 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 — reasons, the authors contend, why women need to be savvier than men to survive and thrive in high-powered careers.

Throughout the book, the authors weave real-life anecdotes from the women they interviewed along with kernels of advice like a “New Girl Action Plan,” ways to “Take Care of Yourself,” and “Comeback Lines” for dealing with sexual harassment and other difficult situations.

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