Sally Helgesen’s ‘How Women Rise’ Hits At The Right Time

By Susan Mehalick Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Sally Helgesen's new book "How Women Rise" profiles real women in the workplace like nonprofit exec Amy, who is uncomfortable claiming recognition for her accomplishments, or legal eagle Miranda, whose desire to please leads a male counterpart to hand off an undesirable assignment because he knew she'd say yes when asked.

Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

Sally Helgesen has been a leading expert in the women's leadership arena for three decades now and even she didn't see it coming.

The response to the Chatham-based author's latest title, "How Women Rise," co-written with Marshall Goldsmith, has kept her in perpetual motion as she's traveled nationally and internationally -- including to India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Egypt -- from one speaking engagement to the next since its April publication. She will be the guest at a New York Writers Institute event Monday at the Hearst Media Center, in partnership with [email protected]

"It's been pretty explosive and I'm really gratified," Helgesen said from her Columbia County home.

"It's the seventh book I've written ... but none of them were like this."

She attributes the success of "How Women Rise" to what she refers to as the "amplifying effects of social media," her co-author's savvy marketing skills, her publisher's support and also timing.

"Timing is everything with books, and it was just a message that really hit and began resonating," said the leadership consultant, whose previous books include 1990's "The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership," "The Web of Inclusion: A New Architecture for Building Great Organizations" from 1995 and "The Female Vision: Women's Real Power at Work" from 2010.

"What I see," she said, "is that women have this 'Let's do this, let's get this done' attitude and so I think organizations are much more serious about doing what they can to support women and look at their leadership development and remove some of the roadblocks."

That much of Helgesen's traveling of late isn't so much about promoting her new book but bringing her message to organizations and businesses where women work is proving that out.

"Organizations are seeing that they have to step up to the plate," she said.

The book is also hitting home with women. Its subtitle, "Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job," likely catches the attention of many women in the workplace who identify with the issues it addresses of leaders and high performers who have achieved a level of professional success but then find themselves feeling stuck in their careers and perplexed by their inability to rise to the next level.

It's an outgrowth of co-author Goldsmith's 2007 book "What Got You Here Won't Get You There," but tailored specifically for women.

Readers may recognize themselves, or rather their habits, in the profiles of real women Helgesen and Goldsmith present, like nonprofit exec Amy, who is uncomfortable claiming recognition for her accomplishments, or legal eagle Miranda, whose desire to please leads a male counterpart to hand off an undesirable assignment because he knew she'd say yes when asked.

"I have been doing this for 30 years and I've had the same mission consistently, helping women recognize, articulate and act on their greatest strengths," Helgesen said. "There were always women who have always taken it very seriously, but now there's more interest and there's more of a feeling of 'I don't want to be frustrated trying to get from (assistant vice president) to (vice president).' It's the famous thing in organizations, plenty of women get to AVP and they can't get to VP."

What's stopping them may not be their own behavior or habits. Helgesen and Goldsmith recognize that women already face certain disadvantages in the workplace because of long-standing biases that negatively impact them. With "How Women Rise," their intent is to help women tackle issues they can change.

"So what is it going to take?" Helgesen asks regarding how women can move forward and be on a level playing field with their male counterparts.

"It's going to take a lot of things and obviously structural and cultural change are part of that," she said "but with this book what we're trying to do is focus on what women can control ... and look at behaviors that may have served you very well, but either will not serve you as you seek to move higher or that you may perceive are starting to get in your way. And we offer some ways to address that."

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