A guide for female middle managers contemplating a move up the ladder.
The subtitle of Rebecca Shambaugh's book Make Room for Her promises an answer to "why companies need an integrated leadership model to achieve extraordinary results," but the real value of the book is as a practical guide for female middle managers contemplating a move into the executive suite. The book is divided into sections for men, women and organizations, but the focus remains on female middle managers, who Shambaugh feels are inhibited more by their own "sticky floors--that is, internal resistance to advancement--than by "glass ceilings." (Shambaugh's previous book, It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor, introduced the concept.)
The most illuminating chapter for women working their way up the corporate ladder may well be the one titled "What Men Aren't Telling Women." It offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the way men think about women (and themselves) in the workplace, and follows up with the "advice" these men would offer their female colleagues if asked. Granted, a lot of these observations are timeworn, biased generalizations, but that's part of Shambaugh's point: There is some truth to be gleaned from even the most stilted perspectives.
For example, though research shows that women place a high value on building and maintaining relationships, says Shambaugh, men are concerned that their female colleagues aren't focusing on the right relationships, meaning those that can be leveraged for advancement or other advantages. Their advice: Network with a clear purpose, and develop relationships that advance that goal.
Channeling the men she researched, Shambaugh also offers suggestions on "fitting in," perhaps the oldest and most fraught aspect of workplace gender integration. Men fear that women won't be comfortable in a male-centered group and worry about how their presence will change the group's dynamics. Their advice? Make it a point to work in groups of mostly men, and observe the dynamics. Listen, and practice ways to contribute to the conversation. The goal is not to become "one of the boys" but to remain at ease while being yourself.
Make Room for Her is chock full of this kind of pithy, rewarding advice that should relieve the anxieties of any manager held back from the upper echelons of leadership by her own "sticky floor."
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