“I looked around the room, wondering when the symbolic woman was going to show up. Then I realized… that she was me.
Sales, especially in the tech industry, are still generally dominated by men. Having risen through the ranks from computer phone sales rep to vice president, Cheryl Stookes has a lot of experience as a symbolic woman – and, in The Token Woman: A Guide to Success as a Female Sales Leader, some advice for those who are going through the same thing.
Many women will recognize the feeling of being an underqualified impostor, receive feedback on how to present themselves, wonder how to handle difficult situations like having to fire someone, and will want to talk about leaders who put their coworkers down on parental leave. . But this 78-page quick read is just as likely to come in handy for male readers, as most of the advice isn’t specific to women.
Yes The symbolic woman has one flaw is how much it is underestimated about discrimination, the difficulties hired people face in improving diversity without equal efforts being made to change the corporate culture, or the tension to deal with mansplaining and manstealing. The latter is the apt Stookes term for a man rejecting a woman’s suggestion in a meeting, only to present it as his own idea a few minutes later, taking credit for himself when everyone likes it.
Instead, in the same way the title of the book puts a positive spin on an often negative experience, Stookes focuses on staying cheerful and offering practical suggestions to leaders and colleagues, illustrated with anecdotes. of his own career.
Women who have repeatedly faced complaints without the help of a (male) manager supporting them wholeheartedly in telling the offender what they are doing wrong can be a little envious. But just hearing how common difficult situations are will help readers facing similar challenges feel less isolated. There are tips for dealing with these challenges, as well as becoming a manager, all of which are applicable far beyond sales (or indeed, the tech industry).
Responding to thieves as if they were defending the idea of the person who originally suggested it is not just a subtle way of giving credit back to its rightful owner; it can also help create a culture where everyone recognizes and attributes contributions. “If something takes more than three emails to resolve, it’s time to pick up the phone” is a helpful reminder of an obvious course of action that’s easy to forget.
The five levels of problem solving (from not knowing the problem or solution, to reporting which solution best solved a problem) will be extremely useful, both for inexperienced managers and for those who have not. had to manage with them to coach them. that kind of advice. There are even some top management tips hidden in Stookes’ suggestions on how a manager can prepare for a customer meeting that a more junior employee asks them to join. And while it’s increasingly common to suggest that improv comedy is useful preparation for work, it’s nice to have this cover more than the ‘Yes and’ principle.
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All useful advice assumes that the reader will be able to express himself without serious consequences. Stookes recognizes that as a white woman there is discrimination that she has not faced, and she is clear about the value of diversity and the need to speak out against bad behavior and provide support.
While the light, friendly and often funny tone of the book emphasizes helpful advice rather than frustrating experiences that make the advice necessary, not everyone will be able to maintain their “bitchy face at rest.” without limiting his career. But if you’re able to put Stookes’ advice into practice, you’ll find it a refreshing take on how to deal with some common irritations at work.
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