Stiletto Network: A book review by Bob Morris

StilettoStiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business
Pamela Ryckman
AMACOM (2013)

Stiletto Networks “are about trying to make your own personal dent in the world.”

I could easily do without the juvenile nomenclature that includes “stiletto network” as well as the “Harpies,” “Babes in Boyland,” “Chicks in Charge,” the “Broad Squad,” and “SLUTS” (Successful Ladies Under Tremendous Stress) but am grateful to Pamela Ryckman for all that I have learned about the nature, extent, power, and value of business women’s networks. I selected her remarks for the title of this review and presume to add that the networks can help those who become members — not only those who found them — to make a “personal dent in the world.”

Ryckman provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel while focusing on a number of highly successful and motivated women who have established a network to provide encouragement and support so that other women can also achieve personal growth and professional advancement. Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer’s Market at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now offer several brief excerpts from the book, representative of the several hundred that caught my eye.

o Rychman: “So this is a love story disguised ass a business story, a tale of female friendship. It’s a story of women whose huge hearts match their mighty brains. Women who choose passion over balance. Women who leap into life. It’s about the kind of woman so many of us are striving to be. And with help from our Stiletto Networks, we can.” (Page 8)

o Kim Moses: “Bering with these women, reaching out to others, we all end up talking about our personal stories and life journeys. It’s pure magic and we’re moved out of our universe for a couple of hours.” (15)

o Rychman: “The next decade will see an explosion of female wealth and power. But it’s not about the money, women say. It’s about the love. There’s a massive money trail, but the relationships themselves are not transactional; they’re true friendships based in loyalty, care, and respect. And in nearly every case, women trace triumphs to a simple query: ‘How can I help?'” (29)

o Mallum Yen: “It’s not just about helping ourselves, and it’s not just mentoring here or there. We’ve learned we have an ability to send a message to law firms.” (47)

o Dorothy Price Hill: “We can’t sit in the corner complaining about the world and burning our bras and we can’t do these things in a vacuum. We have to be at the table with men, creating solutions.” (72)

o Alexa von Tobel: “I never focus on gender; I just focus on metrics and delivering on the business. Maybe I am representative of my generation. I think women are this powerful audience. We’re not second-class citizens; we’re out there kicking butt. I’ve been so lucky, I want to give back to everyone, young and old. I want to spread the goodwill. I want to let other women know that we can take risks and recognize it can be fruitful. The only thing that will eve hold me back is not being prepared, not doing my homework.” (94)

o Penny Hersher: “I have no time for the ‘woe is me, men are so awful, it’s not fair.’ But if the conversation is constructive…you can have a lot of fun with women because you can be more relaxed.” (106)

o Penny-Spiers-Lopez: “Today a lot companies burn people out. Men have been brought up to suck it up and not question as much, but when women say, ‘Here are things we need to change,’ it benefits men too.” (196)

o Davia Temin: “Many of us had to shoehorn our way into a completely male world [of philanthropy] so there’s one level of network that provides solace and comfort. But now we’re taking it to the next level, which is actually to create value in the world. Something hits you and you realize life is finite. You realize you better start yelling, get that bullhorn out. I’m driven now. I want to change things, better things big-time. There’s a Quaker saying I saw at a bench at Swarthmore: ‘Let your life speak.'” (209)

o Rychman: “Inside [Susan] Stautberg and her [Belizean] Grovers lives a juxtaposition: that of public and private, professional and personal, stolid and vulnerable, serious and silly. Philadelphia Queen Anne and Chippendale coexist with hot pink and turquoise.” (236)

Those who are thinking about starting their own “girl power group” are advised to keep these points in mind: (1) start now! (2) think diversity, (3) filter for relevance and shared experience, (4) believe in the magic, (5) strike a balance between personal and professional, (6) have courage and give courage, (7) raise profiles, (8) use technology to facilitate, (9) systemize “asks” and “offers,” (10) if possible, have members go away together, and (11) play with boys! These are explained briefly in the “Conclusion,” Pages 246-249

As I read and then later re-read these and other comments throughout the book, I was again reminded of a passage from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” Pamela Rychman and those she discusses in her book as well as countless others — male as well as female — really are “changing the face of business” but also, and much more importantly, they are accelerating the process by which to eliminate any business issues that are gender-specific. Bravo!

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