Archive | 10:25 AM

Book Review: Powering Up by Anne Doyle (3/5)

14 Nov

When I was in grad school, I went to a woman’s networking conference and heard Anne Doyle speak. All attendees got a copy of her book and I’m a bit embarrassed it took me so long to get to it. (The days of me being years behind on my TBR are almost behind me!) I think this was a good time in my life for me to read this, so maybe it’s fate intervening.

Powering Up Book Cover

Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders by Anne Doyle

Summary from Goodreads:

Powering Up: How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders is a call to leadership heeding women to step up, realize their full potential, and become the leaders they are meant to be. Individual leadership, however, isn’t enough. Every woman for herself is losing strategy. A few lone women, no matter how exceptional they are, have little impact on the conversation of a nearly all-male group, let alone its decisions. It takes critical mass to shift group dynamic. Powering Up will require women to get beyond their differences and recognize how interdependent they are.

I think this was the right time in my life for me to read this book. I’m at a point that Doyle addresses where I have a young family and I have to decide if I want to stay on the fast track, heading upward in my career, or switch to the ‘Mommy Track’ where my career stays steady for a few years while I give my family more attention. That idea seems so sexist and antiquated the more I think about it. What about my partner? Why am I incapable of doing both? I think this book was a good kick in the pants that helped me see a bit more of myself and I’m very thankful for that. I know it’s working because I stood up for myself when a man tried to steal my lane at the pool, rather than just grumbling and dealing with it. Not bad for an introvert!

Doyle uses her own experiences a lot in the book. While it was helpful, it did feel a little odd to be learning so much about someone in a book empowering women to leadership. She used interviews with other women as well and it felt like a lot of them were focused in the Metro Detroit area, where Doyle and I both live. I’m not sure how much impact some of these interviews might have for readers from other parts of the country. 

I thought it was brave of Doyle to share some of the things she did about herself and her journey. She admits to struggles she had with her marriage, her family, and her career. It’s refreshing to see someone who has served in high-power positions share their low points. It can help you see to the other end of your own low points.

There were some things about Doyle’s story that resonated with me. She talked a lot about her job in the auto industry, which is where I work (bet you never guessed this living in Detroit). Despite the time difference between Doyle’s tenure and my own, it’s still a male-dominated industry and a lot of the communication styles can be aggressive and not very welcoming for a young woman who wants to get into the field. It’s something my company and many in the industry are working to combat but it’s not an overnight change. This book got me thinking more about what I can do to help women feel more welcome at my company and what I can ask my company to do so women feel a sense of belonging and want to stay.

Anne-Doyle
Anne Doyle Image via the author’s website

One thing Doyle addressed that resonated with me was how different generations of women often come to resent one another in professional settings. The women who blazed trails and made big impacts in the 50s and 60s can be resentful of women my age who never had to push back against sexist policies and take for granted that we won’t lose out on the job to a man who ‘needs to support his family.’ I thought it was really insightful, especially since I’ve become a mother and I see the parent/not a parent divide amongst women. I’ve found myself talking more to those who have children and understand the balance we’re trying to straddle. Before my child was born, I didn’t really understand the balances of childcare and hungry toddlers and I think I was less sympathetic than I should have been.

There wasn’t a part of this book that I particularly disliked in any way. However, there wasn’t a part that grabbed me in and pushed me to read more and more. It was steady, but never overly exciting for me. I had no trouble putting it down, but I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. I find this more often with non-fiction so I think it’s part of my preference for fiction.

Women are slowly getting more and more equal footing with men in professional settings. Doyle’s book was published in 2011 and since then we’ve seen a woman get a presidential nomination and a woman vice president. I know if Doyle had published this later, she would have talked at length about Mary Barra being named CEO of General Motors. To this day, I think that’s one of the biggest achievements for women in the auto industry and Barra is well respected. I’ve heard before that it’s about time for women to step into positions of power and Doyle lays out well how to do that and what obstacles a woman will face. 

Writer’s Takeaway: I can’t see myself ever writing a non-fiction book. If I did, I’d want to be very aware of how much of myself I was pouring into the book. I think there’s a balance before you start bleeding into memoir and Doyle was playing a game with that line here. I think it might have been helpful to put all of her personal anecdotes into a section by itself which would have read as more of a memoir. Without knowing her, I found her stories a bit confusing because I didn’t understand the timeline of when in her career they happened to her.

An enjoyable and empowering read. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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