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Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility

by Mireille Guiliano

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Mireille Giuliano is the author of a book you may have heard of, French Women Don't Get Fat. While I haven't read that best-seller of hers, not yet anyway (it's all for health, I assure you, vanity has nothing to do with it!), the title of this book made it seem like it would be a good read right now: lately I have been pondering career advancement, how we women fit into the world where men continue to rule, and why the situation is what it is. Guiliano was president and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. for several decades, so I figured she'd have some interesting thoughts on the matter.
I wasn't wrong. This French-born powerhouse tells it like it is, from women having to work harder and smarter than competitors to get ahead, to the fact that women continue to get the short end of the stick when it comes to compensation. What I liked though was that none of it was a lament of the situation. "It is what it is, face the facts, put on your big girl pencil skirt and go get 'em if that's what you want to do" is Guiliano's kind of career advice.
She is realistic about our feminine shortcomings (not playing up our own worth, not negotiating the terms to get what we want, gossiping, trying to take care of everything and everybody at the expense of ourselves) just as she is realistic about our strengths (ability to listen and see a problem from different angles, being flexible, being enough of a novelty to command immediate attention if we position ourselves as an equal with valuable insights to offer). She gives practical advice on topics ranging from presenting ourselves in the best possible light both on paper and in person, to entertaining, to value of excellent communication skills and time-priority balance. She talks about what makes a good leader and a good manager, the importance of not being reluctant to share information with other women and help each other advance, as well as the fact that sometimes chance and luck are huge factors in the course one's career takes.
Throughout the book she illustrates her points with real-life examples from her own career and experiences of other women, and men, she knows, which helps to make the book a more lively read. It is already written in a very accessible voice so these illustrations make it helpful and fun at the same time. If that's not fun enough there are recipes, self-deprecating humor, wardrobe advice and a healthy dash of French turns of phrase.
My only reservation regarding this book stems from the fact that despite all the positives I didn't get a feeling that it is aimed at women who aren't aspiring for corner offices. Granted, Guiliano writes from her experience, and she was a high-level executive in a luxury industry for many years, but not everybody is looking for titles with Cs in them, some of us just want to get out of the rut of the lowest levels of the support staff positions. On the other hand of course the time she spends talking about entertaining business associates or working with leaders of foreign companies only makes this book more useful for those of us who do want that C title. After all, tips on working smarter is something we all can use, from an entry-level assistant to a president of a corporation.
One last note: the very last sentence of this book is "Bon courage". Not luck, courage. That alone made the book worth reading. ( )
  bolgai | May 5, 2013 |
I enjoyed this book. It is easy reading, full of good advice - much of which if not new was well worth hearing again! The style is very human and not as pretentious and irritating as many business books. The willingness to share was most evident, not judge, lecture or order, simply share. It makes for a useful and interesting read.
  rightantler | Mar 22, 2010 |
Most of the advice I've heard before, but somehow it sounded much better coming from someone with a French accent. A lovely, quick read for women looking to change careers or inhance their standing in a current career. ( )
  bluesviola | Feb 26, 2010 |
Guilano's text is engaging (especially given the potentially dry subject matter) and entertaining, and, as she had hoped, her stories and anecdotes give new meaning to each of her workplace lessons. Well-written (especially as English, we learn, is not her native language), informative, and at times thought-provoking, Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire is an easy read for any woman in the workplace, and would make a valuable gift for any young woman starting her career (or more experienced woman needing a bit of subtle guidance). Gentlemen, though, should probably take a pass (the title pretty much guarantees this though, no?)

Added points to the design team on this one for the mono-color images at the heading of each chapter and the overall paper and feel of the book: it is classy, sophisticated, and perfectly matches both the author and the tone of the book.

(Thank you to Atria, of S&S, for the review copy of the book) ( )
1 vote ofabookworm | Oct 26, 2009 |
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The bestselling author of "French Women Don't Get Fat" brings her delightful sensibility and practical advice to working women.

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