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Machiavelli For Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace

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From the NPR host of The Indicator podcast and correspondent for Planet Money comes a guide for how today’s women can apply the principles of 16th-century philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli to their work lives and finally shatter the glass ceiling once and for all—perfect for fans of Feminist Fight Club, Lean In, and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Women have been maki From the NPR host of The Indicator podcast and correspondent for Planet Money comes a guide for how today’s women can apply the principles of 16th-century philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli to their work lives and finally shatter the glass ceiling once and for all—perfect for fans of Feminist Fight Club, Lean In, and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Women have been making strides towards equality for decades, or so we’re so often told. They’ve been increasingly entering male-dominated areas of the workforce and consistently surpassing their male peers in grades, university attendance, and degrees. They’ve recently stormed the political arena with a vengeance. But despite all of this, the payoff is—quite literally—not there: the gender pay gap has held steady at about 20% since 2000. And the number of female CEOs for Fortune 500 companies has actually been declining. So why, in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, is the glass ceiling still holding strong? And how can we shatter it for once and for all? Stacy Vanek Smith’s advice: ask Machiavelli. Using The Prince as a guide and with charm and wit, Smith applies Renaissance politics to the 21st century, and demonstrates how women can take and maintain power in careers where they have long been cast as second-best. Based on the latest research, tips from successful women across many industries, and experiences from Smith’s own life, Machiavelli for Women is a powerful, entertaining, and inspirational guide for a new generation of successful women.


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From the NPR host of The Indicator podcast and correspondent for Planet Money comes a guide for how today’s women can apply the principles of 16th-century philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli to their work lives and finally shatter the glass ceiling once and for all—perfect for fans of Feminist Fight Club, Lean In, and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Women have been maki From the NPR host of The Indicator podcast and correspondent for Planet Money comes a guide for how today’s women can apply the principles of 16th-century philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli to their work lives and finally shatter the glass ceiling once and for all—perfect for fans of Feminist Fight Club, Lean In, and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Women have been making strides towards equality for decades, or so we’re so often told. They’ve been increasingly entering male-dominated areas of the workforce and consistently surpassing their male peers in grades, university attendance, and degrees. They’ve recently stormed the political arena with a vengeance. But despite all of this, the payoff is—quite literally—not there: the gender pay gap has held steady at about 20% since 2000. And the number of female CEOs for Fortune 500 companies has actually been declining. So why, in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, is the glass ceiling still holding strong? And how can we shatter it for once and for all? Stacy Vanek Smith’s advice: ask Machiavelli. Using The Prince as a guide and with charm and wit, Smith applies Renaissance politics to the 21st century, and demonstrates how women can take and maintain power in careers where they have long been cast as second-best. Based on the latest research, tips from successful women across many industries, and experiences from Smith’s own life, Machiavelli for Women is a powerful, entertaining, and inspirational guide for a new generation of successful women.

30 review for Machiavelli For Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I had low expectations for this book. I expected it to be a cringey, over-the-top, condescending book that is similar to how Machiavelli is viewed today. Luckily, this is not the case. Smith does an amazing job of pointing out redundancies and traps society has for women. This book is a combination of useful advice and confirmation that you're not crazy with thinking the odds are stacked against you. I had low expectations for this book. I expected it to be a cringey, over-the-top, condescending book that is similar to how Machiavelli is viewed today. Luckily, this is not the case. Smith does an amazing job of pointing out redundancies and traps society has for women. This book is a combination of useful advice and confirmation that you're not crazy with thinking the odds are stacked against you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    This was an interesting take on the discrimination women in the workplace face. I think her arguments were well researched and her solutions are presented in a way that is applicable and might actually work.  I appreciated the inclusion of POC and LGBTQIA women and non-binary persons into her discussion.  Overall, this had some really interesting points and I would recommend to a friend.  Thank you to Net Galley for an e-ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Pham

    Have been a long time listener to Stacey on NPR podcasts and didn’t realize she was writing a book until recently! Immediately got a hard copy and plugged away for the past week. The book was super informative, full of helpful insights and research, and quite funny! I had several occasions of reading the book and laughing out loud. Although I didn’t get the audiobook, I was able to sense Stacey’s intonation and tone while reading, making it all the more joyful. Will be recommending to more and m Have been a long time listener to Stacey on NPR podcasts and didn’t realize she was writing a book until recently! Immediately got a hard copy and plugged away for the past week. The book was super informative, full of helpful insights and research, and quite funny! I had several occasions of reading the book and laughing out loud. Although I didn’t get the audiobook, I was able to sense Stacey’s intonation and tone while reading, making it all the more joyful. Will be recommending to more and more friends!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Siyun

    Context: I got this book cuz I am a fan of Tracy Venek Smith’s work at NPR where she’s the cohost of Planet Money Podcast. Pros: Practical, tactical advices that might be useful for those who stuck in work environments where women, especially women of color, are treated unfairly. The book is fun and fast pace - stays true with the author’s reporting style at NPR. Cons: depends on where you are in your career stages and trajectory, you might not find this book useful. That’s the case for me. One Context: I got this book cuz I am a fan of Tracy Venek Smith’s work at NPR where she’s the cohost of Planet Money Podcast. Pros: Practical, tactical advices that might be useful for those who stuck in work environments where women, especially women of color, are treated unfairly. The book is fun and fast pace - stays true with the author’s reporting style at NPR. Cons: depends on where you are in your career stages and trajectory, you might not find this book useful. That’s the case for me. One might need to zoom out and take a more holistic view at what you want to achieve in your personal and professional life. Not just climbing the next rung on the ladder Overall, I think it is worth a read. Especially you enjoy witty, no filters writing style.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I've been listening to Stacey Vanek Smith for years on NPR and absolutely love her. This book, which I wish didn't have to be written, was witty and pragmatic with great touches of humor. I listened to the audiobook and the author's reading performance was phenomenal. I've been listening to Stacey Vanek Smith for years on NPR and absolutely love her. This book, which I wish didn't have to be written, was witty and pragmatic with great touches of humor. I listened to the audiobook and the author's reading performance was phenomenal.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    Questionable statistics, but otherwise an interesting, practical take on a 500+ year old book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amber Guffey

    Going into it I wasn't sure how relevant this would be for me since I'm not particularly career focused/ambitious, but it was really funny and engaging and gave me a lot to think about. I'd recommend the audiobook, read by the author (who is a podcaster by day so it was basically just an 8-hour Planet Money episode) And now, off to read The Prince! Going into it I wasn't sure how relevant this would be for me since I'm not particularly career focused/ambitious, but it was really funny and engaging and gave me a lot to think about. I'd recommend the audiobook, read by the author (who is a podcaster by day so it was basically just an 8-hour Planet Money episode) And now, off to read The Prince!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Linde

    I listen to Stacey Vanek Smith on The Indicator, so I was happy to hear her conversational style in the audio version of her book. She offers good advice for salary and promotion negotiation, or if you work in a toxic work environment. Chapter 7, which deals with working while mothering, was infuriating to me. To be fair, she prefaces her statements in this chapter by saying that she is not a parent, and that Machiavelli stresses the importance of viewing the world as it is and not as it should I listen to Stacey Vanek Smith on The Indicator, so I was happy to hear her conversational style in the audio version of her book. She offers good advice for salary and promotion negotiation, or if you work in a toxic work environment. Chapter 7, which deals with working while mothering, was infuriating to me. To be fair, she prefaces her statements in this chapter by saying that she is not a parent, and that Machiavelli stresses the importance of viewing the world as it is and not as it should be. The Mommy Hot Box is real. However, advising women to pretend that their children don't exist when they are at work, that parenting should not appear to affect their availability to work all hours, is FEEDING the patriarchal system that created the hot box. This chapter aside, the book offers practical advice with The Prince as a surprisingly sympathetic frame.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann Venkat

    A must-read for all women in mid-level management or above roles. Just like there is a book The Art of War specific to managers, consider this book an easy translation of the book by Machiavelli. Even though Machiavelli tactics are supposed to be cruel methods for power hungry villains, this book is the opposite. It will help you slay the invisible dragons that hold women back in the workplace and accelerate your career. It completely transformed how I was looking at the original book! If you ar A must-read for all women in mid-level management or above roles. Just like there is a book The Art of War specific to managers, consider this book an easy translation of the book by Machiavelli. Even though Machiavelli tactics are supposed to be cruel methods for power hungry villains, this book is the opposite. It will help you slay the invisible dragons that hold women back in the workplace and accelerate your career. It completely transformed how I was looking at the original book! If you are a sensible sensitive, woman looking to balance the nice-girl image with career ambitions (however modest those goals maybe!), then this book will be immensely helpful!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I was fortunate to receive this book for free as part of a giveaway. I really enjoyed the structure of the book. The information was neatly organized and presented. I found the workplace advice in the book very practical.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    (I received this book as an ARC from a GoodReads Giveaway.) Given, I read The Prince a year or so ago for political activism research at a friend's suggestion to understand the GOP/Republican Party/Trump supporters (and I live in a Trump-supporter heavy small town in New England), I thought this looked like a nifty read. It's geared more towards women in corporate, tech, and academia, but has a lot of useful tips for the application of Machiavellian strategy to the world of work. The reading is v (I received this book as an ARC from a GoodReads Giveaway.) Given, I read The Prince a year or so ago for political activism research at a friend's suggestion to understand the GOP/Republican Party/Trump supporters (and I live in a Trump-supporter heavy small town in New England), I thought this looked like a nifty read. It's geared more towards women in corporate, tech, and academia, but has a lot of useful tips for the application of Machiavellian strategy to the world of work. The reading is very accessible with a lot of case studies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    A quick read with tons of advice and words of wisdom for women navigating the workplace. Get out your highlighter.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lyle Beefelt

    I first became a fan of Stacey Vanek Smith when she was a reporter for Planet Money. With a degree in economics, I’m painfully aware that economics is not always riveting, but Ms. Vanek Smith brought life and excitement to the dismal science like I’ve never heard before. Whether it’s following the production of a T-shirt from the cotton fields to finished product, or oil or toxic assets, Stacey Vanek Smith makes economics exciting. More importantly she shows how economics is really about people. I first became a fan of Stacey Vanek Smith when she was a reporter for Planet Money. With a degree in economics, I’m painfully aware that economics is not always riveting, but Ms. Vanek Smith brought life and excitement to the dismal science like I’ve never heard before. Whether it’s following the production of a T-shirt from the cotton fields to finished product, or oil or toxic assets, Stacey Vanek Smith makes economics exciting. More importantly she shows how economics is really about people. Now Stacey has produced her most important work yet - a careful and thorough explanation of the discrimination and hurdles working women face through the voices of women who have experienced and overcame them. Along with this, she casts a new light on Machiavelli, the ultimate heartless manipulator. Or maybe not so heartless. Machiavelli, as the chief diplomat of Florence, Italy, was the consummate poker player though dealt a terrible hand. When his winning streak came to an abrupt end, he poured his diplomatic lessons learned into a treatise addressed to Florence’s Medici conqueror-The Prince. Ms. Vanek Smith applies Machiavelli’s wisdom to the modern problems facing women in the workplace with her well honed talent for wisdom, wit, optimism and humility. The result is a book that makes women facing workplace discrimination or harassment, basically all working women, feel less alone and better equipped to get their just due in the world of workplace. Why would I, a white man over 60, care about a book on workplace discrimination and advice? Simple. I have two daughters. I have an awesome sister who experienced pay discrimination. I manage women in my job and have reported to women for over twenty years. The discrimination needs to stop so we can all be better and prosper together. Finally, well, Stacey Vanek Smith. She’s just great. Read the book or listen to the audiobook. You will learn and enjoy it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I really don't know how to rate this book in terms of the advice that it gives because I am very grateful to say that this extremely bleak picture has not been my experience of the workplace so a lot of the advice just didn't feel useful to me and, in fact, I didn't want to engage with some of it because I worried it would make me overthink things that are actually going fine! Like so many moments in the last few years, I've wondered how much of my experience is based on being in a female domina I really don't know how to rate this book in terms of the advice that it gives because I am very grateful to say that this extremely bleak picture has not been my experience of the workplace so a lot of the advice just didn't feel useful to me and, in fact, I didn't want to engage with some of it because I worried it would make me overthink things that are actually going fine! Like so many moments in the last few years, I've wondered how much of my experience is based on being in a female dominated industry, how much is me being oblivious and how much is luck. Regardless, it seems to be working out for me and I just felt so sad that women have such consistently bad experiences. I guess also I have done a lot of reading along these lines at this point, and maybe the earlier reading I did helped me avoid some pitfalls (like my natural tendency to not want to ask for things) so that I'm not in a place where I don't feel like I need this. So my feelings were mostly neutral, except for the part where she broke down negative types of women that you might run into in the workplace. I really did not like that part. Isn't that just playing into some of the same stereotypes that hurt women to begin with? It felt harmful to me and I wish that had all been framed differently.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jones

    I thought this was a great book full of lots of great stories and helpful tips! I can't give it 5 stars because I was disappointed in the advice in chapter 7 (the parent trap) to essentially pretend you don't have kids by never talking about them at work and also working like crazy as if you didn't have kids (so, living your life in a totally unsustainable way as you miss out on spending any time with your family, making them--and you--feel neglected and sad about your total absence from their l I thought this was a great book full of lots of great stories and helpful tips! I can't give it 5 stars because I was disappointed in the advice in chapter 7 (the parent trap) to essentially pretend you don't have kids by never talking about them at work and also working like crazy as if you didn't have kids (so, living your life in a totally unsustainable way as you miss out on spending any time with your family, making them--and you--feel neglected and sad about your total absence from their lives??). The author prefaces this advice with an apology and agrees that caregiver discrimination is totally unfair, but the advice in that chapter in particular seemed so much less nuanced and well thought out than all the other chapters. She mentions she doesn't have any kids herself, so the advice was lacking the personal experience that enriched the advice given in other chapters. That being said, totally enjoyable read / listen full of helpful, actionable tips on knowing your worth, negotiating for what you want, and conducting yourself in a way that will make other people take you seriously.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a surprisingly breezy read for a "women in the workplace" topic. I enjoyed the historic framework structure of Machiavelli's writings. Stacey Vanek Smith has a positive, humorous "voice" in her writings and podcasting which makes even this short book a fairly easy read. The brevity is a plus because I highly recommend it to women preparing for, and currently in, the American workforce. Smith has some valuable advice, succinctly delivered. I hold back on a higher overall recommendation fo This is a surprisingly breezy read for a "women in the workplace" topic. I enjoyed the historic framework structure of Machiavelli's writings. Stacey Vanek Smith has a positive, humorous "voice" in her writings and podcasting which makes even this short book a fairly easy read. The brevity is a plus because I highly recommend it to women preparing for, and currently in, the American workforce. Smith has some valuable advice, succinctly delivered. I hold back on a higher overall recommendation for the book because of my discomfort with how manipulative much of the discourse feels to me. My hope (perhaps naive) is that women will be able to make giant strides in being able to be their authentic selves in their work and personal lives.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kenshi Poneva

    It literally grows my ambition after reading this book. But most importantly it opens my eyes to know my value and my worth. Each chapters are so relatable to what I’ve been through right now. Before I read this book, I didn’t know that whole this time I behaved like someone who has that impostor syndrome. Now this book slapped me in the face to wake up and win the game. As a big fan of Niccolò Machiavelli, I found that the author has successfully demonstrated the tricks and tactics from The Pri It literally grows my ambition after reading this book. But most importantly it opens my eyes to know my value and my worth. Each chapters are so relatable to what I’ve been through right now. Before I read this book, I didn’t know that whole this time I behaved like someone who has that impostor syndrome. Now this book slapped me in the face to wake up and win the game. As a big fan of Niccolò Machiavelli, I found that the author has successfully demonstrated the tricks and tactics from The Prince to defend your worth and grow your ambition. This is the first book I read where I used lots of highlighter and sticky tabs for marking tons of powerful insights and advices. I’ll call this book my bible now.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    The writing is engaging, and the ideas are intriguing… and maybe I’m not the best gauge for this book because my former and current workplaces are not typical male-dominated businesses, but I found it to be a little all over the place. Maybe I didn’t come into it with enough background knowledge of Machiavelli or “The Prince,” but it seemed a little disorganized and not very clear. I live the writer’s style though, and she made a topic that doesn’t really apply to me a pleasure to read, neverthe The writing is engaging, and the ideas are intriguing… and maybe I’m not the best gauge for this book because my former and current workplaces are not typical male-dominated businesses, but I found it to be a little all over the place. Maybe I didn’t come into it with enough background knowledge of Machiavelli or “The Prince,” but it seemed a little disorganized and not very clear. I live the writer’s style though, and she made a topic that doesn’t really apply to me a pleasure to read, nevertheless… if you are a woman in a male-dominated career, there might be useful tips in here that apply to your situation…

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I liked the premise of this book but it felt very privileged. Granted, there are a lot of great nuggets of advice for women in corporate America. I had a hard time stomaching the section on returning to work like nothing has changed after you had a baby. Note: everything has changed and your life will never be the same. Workplaces in the U.S. need to do a better job recognizing and supporting parental leave as normal and pay for maternity and paternity leave like every other developed nation in I liked the premise of this book but it felt very privileged. Granted, there are a lot of great nuggets of advice for women in corporate America. I had a hard time stomaching the section on returning to work like nothing has changed after you had a baby. Note: everything has changed and your life will never be the same. Workplaces in the U.S. need to do a better job recognizing and supporting parental leave as normal and pay for maternity and paternity leave like every other developed nation in the world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    Smith astutely draws insights from Machievelli's advice in "The Prince" that can effectively help women navigate the sexism in work culture. She very clearly lays out actionable steps one can take to succeed in one's career ambitions. This is a book with valuable information that every woman should know to thrive at the highest level in the workplace. Smith astutely draws insights from Machievelli's advice in "The Prince" that can effectively help women navigate the sexism in work culture. She very clearly lays out actionable steps one can take to succeed in one's career ambitions. This is a book with valuable information that every woman should know to thrive at the highest level in the workplace.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Myers-Harbison

    A self-help book for women based on Machiavelli's advice. I like the author's writing style - it could be described as 'perky'. The book has lots of examples and quotes from successful contemporary women. I could have used some of this advice when I was working! A self-help book for women based on Machiavelli's advice. I like the author's writing style - it could be described as 'perky'. The book has lots of examples and quotes from successful contemporary women. I could have used some of this advice when I was working!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I liked the writing and the references back to the Prince. I haven't read Machiavelli but I liked the lens Smith used to give guidance I have heard many times in a different way. Smith has a great cadence and perspective to the stories and I liked her own experiences woven into the book. I liked the writing and the references back to the Prince. I haven't read Machiavelli but I liked the lens Smith used to give guidance I have heard many times in a different way. Smith has a great cadence and perspective to the stories and I liked her own experiences woven into the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Abby Twining

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I will be honest, I entered a giveaway for this book before I truly understood the beliefs of Machiavelli. I do not truly agree with this way of thinking, so I did not finish the book- however, it was well written, and if this interests you, I would recommend you pick it up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susan Walker

    A book about women and power! I loved all the stories of successful women.

  25. 4 out of 5

    RACHEL

    What a wonderful look at women and power in the workplace. This book is full of insight and advice for all working women. My copy was a gift through Goodreads First Reads.

  26. 4 out of 5

    M.

    It was a good read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maccccccccc

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. good

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Found this book from Gretchen Rubin’s blogpost on 09/09/21 with Stacey Vanek Smith.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Callie Warren

    A practical, nuanced view of fighting for your own self worth within a broken system. So relatable and often funny to boot. I will be channeling Machievelli when necessary from here on out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Arleen Joyce

    Awesome read very insightful

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