Published: January 2007
WOMEN ON TOP: Redefining power and the nature of success for the 21st century.
Contradictions about the role of women in business remain but in the US female-run companies are doing better than ever.
Women on Top: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Changing the Rules of Business Success By Margaret Heffernan, Viking, $25.95
Reading Women on Top feels like attending a kaleidoscopic, high-energy drinks party, packed to the gunnels with brave, buzzy, imaginative businesswomen. I left energised – and convinced... [view PDF]
Women-run companies are more likely to stay in business than the average U.S. firm, to grow at three times the average rate, create jobs at twice the average rate and produce profits faster, according to former CEO and BBC producer Heffernan. To find out how and why, she interviewed hundreds of women business owners. Although the way her results confirmed stereotypes about gender differences made her queasy, it turned out that women business owners typically possess the characteristics experts think are needed in 21st-century businesses: combining "discipline, focus, detachment, and systematic thinking with playfulness, empathy, and design." She found that many women started their own businesses after working for corporations that didn't respect or listen to them. In charge of their own companies, their abilities to assert their values, nurture their employees and customers, "orchestrate" rather than "command and control," emphasize collaboration rather than competition, stay open to change, ask for help, learn from mistakes and make time for family became a formula for success. Heffernan's tone matches the frenetic pace and idealistic underpinnings of her interviewees' packed lives. (Jan. 22)
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A woman who has been the CEO of six companies, Heffernan is an unusual breed, but here she argues that she's not that unusual. Women represent the fastest-growing segment of the entrepreneurial population, starting and growing businesses of all kinds. As Heffernan gives facts and figures (e.g., more women attend college now than men) along with plenty of success stories, this book is as much a preview of the future of business as it is a pep talk for women. Most books on business entrepreneurship can be divided into two types: those directed toward anyone wanting to start a business (e.g., Wes Moss's Starting from Scratch or Guy Kawasaki's Art of the Start, a kind of handbook on bringing new ideas to life) and those that focus on women. In this context, Heffernan's is a solid work that adds another dimension to the business library. Most of what it presents we already know: women shop more often and are in tune with trends; they have fresh ideas, communicate more, and are willing to take more risks. But the book also argues compellingly that many women are driven to become entrepreneurs because those in power in corporate America-that is, men-shut them out. Consequently, this book could work in women's studies collections as well as business collections.
~ Stephen E. Turner, Turner & Assocs., San Francisco
Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information