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July 6, 2010 > Business Bookclub: "Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn't" by Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine

Business Bookclub: "Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn't" by Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine

You always thought you were on the right track.

You got good grades and attended a good college. Achieved a degree, went on strategically-chosen interviews and landed work that led to a better position that eventually got you your dream job.

And it's turned into a nightmare.

Your workplace is mixed pretty equally, gender-wise, but things are decidedly not equal. It's not overt, but little occurrences add up, making you wonder if you've somehow stepped back fifty years.

In the new book "Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn't" by Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine, you'll see that you're not alone.

Nobody can deny that the blatant discrimination our mothers experienced is over and gone. Still, many working women notice something just a little off at the office. Small subtleties make them drop their jaws and raise their eyebrows.

You're told to be assertive, then management says you're being a witch. They want you to speak up and actively participate in meetings, then they say you're too aggressive. If you've got family, your dedication to them and to your job is questioned. You're passed over for too much information and too many promotions. And despite all sorts of laws, you still make less than most men in your department.

Part of the problem, according to the authors, is that we're "solving the wrong problem." Today, by law, nobody can be denied a job based solely on gender. The issue, therefore, is not one of women entering the corporate system. It's "working within the corporate system."

Unfortunately for women, the basic rules of the corporate world also lead to paradoxes. If you're asked to be a team player, for instance, you won't get equal recognition; if you want recognition, you won't be perceived as a team player. If you challenge the power structure, you could lose your job - but if you don't, nothing changes. And then there's the danger of gossip if you have a close work-relationship with a man...

So what can a working woman do?

Good question. You'll have to do plenty of between-the-lines reading to answer it.

Authors Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine present a good argument in this book, along with a lot of kvetching that won't be new to most women who work outside the home. There's an abundance of story-examples here that will serve to get every woman's dander up, and paragraphs that will have your head bobbing.

But you'll be well into a high rant before you'll find any useful help: buried in the last chapter are a few weak ideas for becoming a "coed company", including "be patient, but demanding" - never mind the points made in previous pages of this book. This conflicting advice and subsequent lack of resolution left me feeling frustrated and helpless.

"Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn't" is a first-class examination of gender inequality in the workplace, but doesn't offer much more than that. I think, unless you're looking validation on the subject, it's a dang waste of time.

c.2010, Prometheus Books
$19.00 / $23.50 Canada
272 pages

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