Book Review: Beyond the Boys’ Club

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I’ve reviewed a lot of books this summer. Have I become better connected to my scattered team? Hardly. Have I become more lazy as a project manager. No (but I’m trying). Have I rethought my entire approach to work? Yes. Step forward Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris.

Beyond the Boys Club presents career strategies for women working in male dominated fields like science and engineering.

I wasn’t expecting there to be much for me, as neither my area nor my team are particularly male dominated. However, I wasn’t too many chapters in before I started to note down things that I needed to do differently and I hadn’t finished it before I recommended it to someone else.

Yes, the cover is kind of flimsy. Yes, the title is way too long (take a breath:  Beyond the Boys’ Club: strategies for achieving career success as a woman working in a male dominated field). It’s the first business book I have read for a long time that is making me do things differently.

Doyle-Morris has interviewed a number of senior women in male dominated fields including the Diplomatic Service and archaeology, and recorded their career paths, advice and lessons.

This, combined with her own experience as an executive coach, means the book is full of interesting stories of what other women did, sometimes well, sometimes wrong. Each section ends with top tips, things that you can put into action immediately or write on the inside of your notebook cover to glance at when you need a boost.

The book covers a vast amount. I felt like I was reading the seminar material for an executive career course – and that’s really what it is. Regardless of the field you work in you need to be aware of how you come across and what it really takes to get on.

Women in all sectors, and men (if they could overlook the female focus) would take away a lot from the topics covered – there is bound to be something of interest for everyone.

Doyle-Morris considers how to raise your profile, how to connect to the right people and take calculated career risks, giving presentations and coming across professionally in meetings.

She also devotes a chapter to image, and while styles come and go I doubt her advice will date. The book is heavy on what I imagine are key topics that come up in sessions with her clients or in her public speaking: the value of networking internally and externally, mentoring and coaching.

What I found particularly good was the easy tone with which Doyle-Morris writes. She presents good career advice, hints and tips and then is clear with the reader that these are only suggestions. The book is never dictatorial.

Instead, Doyle-Morris tries to ensure that women are making conscious decisions about how they come across, what they do and what they say. The bottom line is that you can do whatever you want – turn up to work in ripped jeans, for example – but do it knowing the positive or negative impact it will have on your career choices.

The main problem is that there is so much in here that it is hard to know where to start. My plan is to read it again (I won’t be loaning it out, that’s for sure) and take plenty of notes this time to properly prepare my career action plan!

Ten gold stars!