Machiavelli for Women book cover

Machiavelli for Women Book Review

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Have you ever read a book that both motivated and frustrated you at the same time?

That is how I felt while reading Machiavelli for Women by Stacey Vanek Smith, host of NPR’s Podcast The Indicator. I would describe it as a workplace survival guide for women, although it has a lot of value for minority groups. For those who are not familiar with Machiavelli, he is considered the father of political science. The study of using power and influence to get what you desire. In this book, Vanek Smith uses his landmark book The Prince to highlight the power imbalances in the workplace and how to maneuver within them.

The underlying premise that Machiavelli and Vanek Smith use to guide their teachings is the need to accept a situation’s reality to make informed decisions. In the case of the workplace, that means accepting that entrenched patriarchy and bias are here, and to get your value in the workplace, you need to work within that system and not hope for the system you want. 

That is not to say the book give the current situation a pass or suggests we shouldn’t fight for more equality in the workplace. But as I heard Stacey Abrams say recently, “You fight for what you want, but you work with what you have.” And this book is a road map to help folks maximize what they can get within the system we have. 

Women at work

The book lays out many practical, actionable tips for women and minorities to help navigate and even thrive in the current system. It also provides everyone with ways to help improve the system—no need to wait until you are a CEO or have direct reports. The book outlines things we can all do today to make a difference.

Here are 3 things Vanek Smith suggests all of us do to help.

1. Salary Transparency.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we should all be transparent with our salaries. Letting people know how much we earn can help to arm women and minorities with the data they need to negotiate for fair pay and help to close the gender/race pay gap.

2. Mentor. 

Actively seek younger or less experienced women or minorities to mentor in and out of your organization. By providing them with your experience, perspective, and access to your network, you can help close the wage gap and potentially help vault them into roles that may be a challenge for them to get on their own.

3. Inform ourselves.

As I said, this book was, at times, a frustrating read. Hearing stories about sexism and bias in offices is not a pleasant read. But acknowledging there are challenges is the first step to changing them. So I suggest finding, reading and sharing this book to inform yourselves and help your network.

This is an excellent book by a journalist who can weave in fun pop cultural references while also highlighting the seriousness of microaggressions, bias, and discrimination. I highly recommend it to you, regardless of your gender.