71Xxfl903TLBy Morgan Craig-Broadwith

The first YWE Book Club of 2015 was a discussion on Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk’s book, Darling You Can’t Do Both: And Other Noise to Ignore on Your Way Up. The book, written by the masterminds behind the Dove marketing campaign featuring women of all shapes and sizes, is divided into rules that women need to examine, and potentially break, on their way to the top.

The icebreaker question posed to the group was “What is the one so-called ‘rule’ that you have broken in your own career and what was the effect?”

Our discussion included sharing experiences of breaking unspoken rules like one company’s practice of never asking the president questions directly during meetings and the payoff of doing so; a genuine and mutually beneficial conversation with the leader. Other rules that we have broken included being vocal about your career aspirations is only for men and that you need to work long hours to prove yourself. Needless to say, thes ice-breaker ignited a great exchange of the rules we have already broken.

The group attempted to touch on all twelve of the invisible rules that Janet and Nancy identify:

  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: If you have a life, you’re not working hard enough
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Gender bias is an issue of the past. Moving on, ladies.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Good things come to those who wait.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Nice girls don’t get in your face.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Because you’re not worth it.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: I’ll do it myself, thanks.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Darling, you can’t do both.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Stay safe.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Networking is for men.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: To win, you have to play the game.
  • RULE TO BE BROKEN: Ambition is a straight line to the top.

The most debate and discussion was sparked by the rules: “If you have a life, you’re not working hard enough” and the book’s title rule “Darling, you can’t do both”.

RULE TO BE BROKEN: If you have a life, you’re not working hard enough

How many times have we worn the badge of honour for being the last to leave the office? It’s a strange bragging right of many Western cultures that long hours have become strangely equated with success. In an effort to combat the assumption between hours and performance, Janet shares the one personal commitment she refuses to let go of are Sunday night dinners with family and friends. Our discussion led us to revealing our non-negotiable personal commitments such as friendships, travel and fitness. Some of us refused to give up personal commitments, but often compromised by carrying work home with them or on vacation.

Janet and Nancy recall mistakes made early in their career: pushing family aside, working late and arriving back to the office early, saying yes when they should say no (also known as committing ‘yes-icide’). Janet shares, “It would take years of feeling overworked and underappreciated for me to realize the best gift I could give my career was to make room for my life”. Yet, without these mistakes and sacrifices, the YWE Book Club wouldn’t be reading their story – Janet and Nancy would not have become the two female powerhouses we know them to be. Thus, while we concluded it is important to rule-break when and where we can, we also understand that sacrifice is often a component of ensuring the trajectory we want.

RULE TO BE BROKEN: Darling, you can’t do both.

“Darling you can’t do both”, resonated differently amongst the group depending on each person’s current life stage – single, in a relationship, married, children, multiple children, etc. The group discussed an interesting question, “Does having a child give you a better excuse (to leave work or not over-commit to personal engagements)?” We delved into the judgment that is sometimes felt when we say “no” for no other reason than we don’t want to take on another task or attend another event. We agreed it’s not often received well. The young mothers of the group expressed having a child makes you more vigilant with your schedule and encourages you to take a more balanced approach, but is not necessarily a more legitimate excuse.

Janet and Nancy are honest, feisty, and take-no-prisoners type leaders. They have overcome gender bias, rampant within the world of advertising, while still remaining true to themselves. They learned how to ask for what they felt they deserved (with a little nudging, of course) and speak up, quite publically, when our gender was lambasted by a well-known and once-respected advertising legend. The book is approachable, thought-provoking and invites you to consider the rules you have broken and the ones you have yet to.