I read To the Top because of a run-in with my alma mater.
Let me explain…
A few weeks ago, I got a fundraising call from the university, and since I’m a huge supporter of quality education, I happily donated. Then, last week, the thank-you letter arrived…
Thanking my husband.
While we both graduated from the university, I had a higher GPA and more honors. Yet apparently, I’m not on the alumni list. Every communication is addressed to my husband — even, it seems, a thank-you note for a contribution made by me!
To say I needed to read this book is an understatement.
To the Top is a powerful book that aims to rewrite the rules for women. It draws from cutting-edge research and stories of women executives around the world to make a compelling case that women’s rightful place is in the boardroom.
Like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, it’s a must-read for companies, leaders, and women.
About the Author
Jenna Fisher is Managing Director of Russell Reynolds Associates and leads the firm’s Global CFO Practice. She’s also involved at the board level of RRA, recruiting financial experts to serve on Audit Committees and preparing organizations for CFO succession.
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she manages the Palo Alto office while working with companies across North America, Europe and Asia.
Fisher is committed to finding transformational leaders who can guide companies forward in a changing world. As part of that mission, she’s a strong advocate for building diverse leadership teams that include equal numbers of men and women.
Fisher is the perfect person to write a book like To the Top. She’s ascended the corporate ladder, maintained work-life balance, and achieved her personal and professional goals while wearing pink.
Reading To the Top, I had fewer aha moments than feelings of validation. For the most part, it told me what I already know — what I’ve already experienced.
Yes, there’s a huge disparity between opportunities for men and women. In the 21st century, universities are still ignoring their female graduates, for goodness sake!
The question remains, what are we going to do about it? I’m not sure Fisher has provided a clear-cut answer, but she does provide the clarion call. Her book is equal parts education, inspiration, and disruption.
In the introduction, Fisher states she didn’t write this book to women, but for women. She’s actually writing to organizations, impressing on them the need for more women at the top. Her aim: to change the rules, so women achieve parity sooner than later.
I appreciate that. It’s clear she doesn’t believe I need to show up as anything other than myself.
But after reading story after story of women who have achieved the leadership positions I’d love to step into, I wanted her to talk to me. I wanted more mentorship. How can I achieve that too?
Sadly, that’s the point of the book. There isn’t anything I need to do except to step into the opportunities that are presented to me.
“Embrace all that you already are as a leader. Don’t take a supportive role or allow yourself to be a ‘handmaiden’ in a meeting…. Be bold and fearless…. Extend your professional and personal support networks… Set yourself up for the success you deserve.”
The book opens with a lot of statistics that set the stage for Fisher’s point. The one that stood out to me underscores the myth of progress: at our current pace, it will take 132 years for women to reach economic parity with men!
There are no words to express how disheartening that is. But like I said, I’ve lived it. So I can’t argue with it.
Interestingly, I have a new vocabulary to describe my experiences, thanks to Fisher.
Like authority gap, the extent to which people are more comfortable granting authority to men than to women.
Or the long tail of women who extend their careers into their 70s and 80s, often reinventing themselves to do so.
And the glass cliff, describing those times when I was hired to do a job that was believed to be impossible. The men in the room wanted to prove it couldn’t be done but didn’t want to take the fall themselves. (Ironically, they were happy to take the credit for my success when I proved it was possible!)
The book did make me reevaluate my life. And about the time I was feeling like I’ve done everything wrong, Fisher introduced the long tail of women, and I realized that’s likely to be me. If I were a man, I’d be nearing the end of my career. But as a woman, I’m actually midcareer, which means I’ve got plenty of time to fix whatever mistakes I’ve made.
I give To the Top five stars. It’s well-written, engaging, and has an important message for all of us.
Founders and executives, To the Top will help you understand the real value of having women in the C-Suite. They’ll make you more profitable, and you’ll likely experience unprecedented growth with their help.
Women, To the Top will anger you, frustrate you, and make you want to throw your hands in the air. But you need to read this book. Written between the lines are bits of advice that will inspire you to go for broke and achieve your biggest, most audacious goals — even in pink.
As Fisher says, “Your time has come.”