Book Review – How to Thrive and Survive as a Working Woman

How to Thrive and Survive as a Working Woman, Fiona Elsa Dent and Viki Holton

I have raced through life without taking breath. It has worked out OK so far. But perhaps a more considered, strategic approach would have taken me further, yielded more success or just made me a little bit happier. “How to Thrive and Survive as a Working Woman” aims to equip women, at any stage of their careers, with the tools to reflect on, review and assess our needs to enable a more strategic approach to planning for success and satisfaction in our working lives.

The authors, Fiona Elsa Dent and Viki Holton are faculty members at Ashridge Executive Education, and the book draws on research conducted by Ashridge, as well as 100s of interviews conducted especially for this book.

The book is broken down into a number of key areas, such as “where are you in your career?” and “Essential relationship skills and qualities,” which allow the reader to look at their current positon and also where they want to get to. The format is narrative, with lots of quotes from interviewees, stories, and also, as you might expect from the title, plenty of exercises and tools to help organise and structure thoughts.

I found it very readable – neither stodgy nor tedious – and I found the exercises interesting and do-able. Quite tempted to actually do some of them.

The authors believe that if women adopt a more structured and strategic approach to career management, we will be more able to reach our full potential and become an even more powerful force in the world. I’m up for that.

Importantly the exercises are about understanding one’s own position, drivers and aspirations. So although the premise is that we are all aiming to be more successful in the context of a career – what success looks like will be defined and shaped by the individual reader.

In typical WiRE fashion I would be inclined to get a group together to use the handbook – I’d not have the single minded focus to do anything useful with it in my own and I think that most people gain confidence and motivation from working in a group. Having said that, the exercises are designed to do individually and so many people would be happy to pick the chapters of particular relevance to themselves and just crack on with it.

Polly Gibb


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