About the Book

Lean In,“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. The truth is: there is no single answer to how to succeed as a woman in the professional world. Every woman is different, and needs a well-stocked toolbox to navigate the modern workplace as she finds it.

Based on the latest research of nationally-renowned Joan C. Williams, an expert on women and work who approaches “rock-star status” in her field according to The New York Times, a new book offers tried and tested advice for women from the cubicle to the corner office, be they timid or assertive, black or white, juggling a family or single, twenty or sixty years-old.


What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know by Williams and her twenty-seven year-old daughter, Rachel Dempsey, draws on hundreds of published studies and a groundbreaking new study of 127 women at the top of their fields. More than half are women of color. The results is a researched-based “how-to” manual for any woman trying to figure out what concrete steps she can take upon realizing something’s gone wrong in her career. Whether she hasn’t advanced as fast as male counterparts, is told she needs to be more of a team player, feels undercut by other women, or is marginalized by motherhood,  What Works for Women at Work can help her understand why and what to do about it.

Williams and Dempsey pinpoint the four ways office politics are trickier for women than men—and even trickier for women of color – and they offer specific strategies to overcome them used by women who have found their way to the top. Women have to prove themselves over and over (“Prove-It-Again!”); they have to navigate a tightrope between being too masculine and too feminine (“Tightrope”); having children just compounds both those problems (“Maternal Wall”); and gender bias often ends up creating highly freighted relationships among women themselves (“Tug of War”).  All of these issues spawn unique, daily obstacles, requiring women to be armed with answers to questions like: What’s the best way to respond when a more senior colleague takes credit for my idea? Or How do I tell my boss I need time off for a child’s dentist appointment?

What’s more, What Works for Women at Work breaks new scientific ground. Williams has taken decades of laboratory research on gender bias out of classroom and tested it against conversations with real working women. Hers is the first systematic study of the different way women of color experience gender bias in today’s workplace, and how their experiences differs from those of white women.  After years of studies and shelves of books on the perspective of one group of woman in the workplace (usually a high-powered professional women), Williams and Dempsey open up the helpline to the rest of the office.

*Book Club discussion questions coming in March! Want them now? Check out Women’s Leadership Edge, where member organizations get exclusive, advance access to research and publications, and are discussing the book now!