Review: Careers Advice for Ambitious Women
Technically called Mrs Moneypenny's Careers Advice for Ambitious Women, this book has a title that also serves as the synopsis. It's written by the awe-inspiring Heather McGregor (A.K.A Mrs Moneypenny) - business woman, writer, TV presenter, entrepreneur, mother, and woman. This book is intent on inspiring, and in that it certainly doesn't fail but it doesn't shy away from the things you need to hear if you want to make it to the top. Overall, I flipping love this book for being the one thing I have ever come across that not only told me I could succeed, but gave me some drive to actually try. I'm 23 and like everybody got to the point where I could do nothing but admit I am bamboozled by life and what I'm meant to do in it, other than have a job. Have a job.
It seems simple but I've been struck by a horrendous fear of hating every job I'll ever do, because thus far I feel as though I have been chosen to do a job but have not really chosen the job myself. I don't want to resent my job because I had no choice but to have it, which is possibly one of the many reasons I clawed my way out of my last employment with my last shreds of happiness and self-fulfillment dragging in tatters behind me. It's not that the job was bad, it was okay, I guess, but it killed me because I didn't want to be there. I discovered in those 10 months that in my next decades of employment the only thing maintaining my sanity is me and my ambition.
So, what did Mrs Moneypenny have to say? Approximately ten things according to the chapters but due to my age and non-entry into motherhood, several didn't have much that applied to me. For example, "It's never too late" did tell me shut up and get the hell on with it, child, but the advice stopped there. And the chapter "But you have to do it all" spoke of domestic arrangements mainly revolving around children, which again, is not a concern of mine. However, the chapter did serve another purpose and that was to both anger and scare me.
I shall elucidate. The chapter speaks of how a woman in a full time career with a partner will often find herself with the lion's share of the housework even if both are in full-time employment. This will then be enormously exacerbated by the introduction of children, where she could then find herself working, doing most of the housework, and doing most of the childcare. There is even one particularly fine example she uses of a woman returning to work while her husband entered retirement (boy, did that one get to me). If you don't see why this angers and scares me I doubt we will ever be friends...
Firstly, this angers me on behalf of all men who split the housework and childcare evenly with their other halves. It also says to me that there are too many in complete denial that men like this exist, whereas I have met some (not many perhaps, but I am determined to point out their existence) for whom this is not a difficulty but an instant reaction. Secondly, I was damn angry that not only were there men still believing this inequality was completely acceptable, but that there were still women enabling them.
Yes, I said women still enabling them. When it comes to an uneven split in these situations there are two guilty parties. I am not allowing myself to fall into the trap of blaming women for being victims, the circumstances we are talking about are not so severe, but we are talking women who agree this is acceptable and accept the imbalance. I suppose I'm referring to non-feminists but this maybe a discussion for another day.
Finally, it's quite obvious why this scares me - it's too familiar. I've seen it everywhere and I know that what Mrs Moneypenny talks of is reality and not too far removed from my own potential future. We've seen it in our parents and grandparents, on telly, in films, and, I'm sad to say, in my own friends. But I will say that McGregor pulls this one back - she tells a tale of a speaker she saw who asked her audience if they were perpetuating inequality in their own homes and into their own children. This prompted McGregor to realise that for all her belief in women being every bit as capable as men, and disliking asymmetry in the workplace, she had passed all of this onto to her own children. She asks that you don't do the same.
Now, I said I found this book to be incredibly inspiring, and that remains true, but I did also find some of it rather alienating. Probably because I, in comparison to the author, am pretty badly off. I have enough money to get by, but I most certainly don't spend big. It seems that in talking lifestyle Mrs Moneypenny hasn't been in my position or anything near it for a very, very long time. Sometimes it's hardly noticeable, with a mention of the cleaner here or getting a taxi there, but sometimes it's unbearably obvious - I hardly get my hair done let alone consider getting a hairdresser to call at the office. And I've never seen a shotgun, let alone imagined getting lessons so I can go to Spain and shoot wild pheasant (I kid you not) with the C-suits.
When these rich people moments crop up in this delightful read I would take them as anecdotes, otherwise you'll find yourself missing out on all the truly good advice hidden behind the ruffles of fifties and flutes of champagne.
Okay, I've picked on a few things but there's never going to be a careers advice book perfectly tailored to me. I really enjoyed this book because I got what I needed - inspiration and ideas. And I can say without a doubt that I would offer this book to every woman having a crisis of career confidence at any point in life. I can't promise that every page will thrill you or speak to your personal story, but I can say that it will give you something as long as you're willing to hear some awful truths along the way.