Seducing the Boys Club

Posted by: Diane Brady on January 29, 2008

I mentioned this book in the fall, when Jena blogged about a shock jock-type book from Christopher V. Flett. But it goes on sale today so it warrants a mention again. The book is called Seducing The Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics from A Woman at the Top.

The author, McCann Erickson New York Chairman Nina DiSesa, talks about how she figured out “the art of S&M—seduction and manipulation” in winning over men. Personally, it bothers me to see an accomplished female executive trotting out tired old sexist stereotypes to talk about her success. She was the first woman and first creative director be be named chairman in the McCann global network. She has an enviable record of growth.

So why write up the “Five Classic Mistakes Women Make When We Lead the Boys” (#1 We get drunk with power … #5 We forget that we have to be better than men)? Would her male colleagues ever put out a book that plays off sexist stereotypes?

I guess it’s another page from the any-publicity-is-good-publicity school. I would have liked to see DiSesa channel her humor and intelligence into a book that tries to see the world through a broader prism. Sure, there may be nuggets of wisdom here. But, as advertisers know, packaging is everything. And this one is a turnoff.

Reader Comments

Mahmood S. Mahdi

January 31, 2008 12:30 PM

What I think is that this Nina has played her role in the book as a desperate move to her way to 'fame'...
Fine, you gotta motivate women who are lacking confidence.

But despite being just a 21-year old business student - i think this woman has slipped off the track and really needs to go thru 'organizational behavior' drills all over again.

Dev

February 7, 2008 10:40 AM

Curious. Have either of you read the book? Doesn't seem like it. Read it and you may have a clue about what she's saying. I actually read it and thought it was great. And while I may not agree with all her tactics, she has a point.

Diane

February 7, 2008 10:48 AM

I did read the book. She's a smart and accomplished woman. I think she could have made her points in a different way.

Nina

February 7, 2008 11:56 AM

If I had made my point in a different way - like The Art of C&C (Charm and Cajoling) - no one would be talking about this book and a subtle approach like that wouldn't have made a dent with the men. But I love your feedback, Even when you are being critical. I always knew that 20-something year-old women would find the book offensive in some way, but the 30-somethings, who were passed over because they couldn't play the game in a boys club, would appreciate it.

Diane

February 7, 2008 3:06 PM

Nina,
You're right ... It's an attention grabber. To me, the boys' club is a very real expression of the inability of some men to appreciate peers who are different from them in gender, style, skin color, etc. It's changing because the world is changing. Just look at the trends in who is snapping up college degrees. We don't need to seduce and manipulate our way to the top. We have to network, mentor each other and be the best at what we do.

Nina DiSesa

February 8, 2008 9:51 AM

I agree that more women than men are graduating from college with degrees, more women are working in mid-management jobs, more women are networking and (sometimes) mentoring each other, but - we still work for men and men hold us back because they are not comfortable enough around us. (I know I'm generalizing. I have to generalize.) We are not enough like these men and they are still calling the shots. Of the Fortune 1,000 companies only 25 of the CEO's are women and I'm not sure how many of those own the company themselves. I understand how these women on this blog feel because I was exactly where you are for the first 15 years of my career. Exactly. I was full of purpose, I had a strong sense of equality and I was loudly outraged every time women were treated differently than the men. I didn't start to enjoy myself or the men I worked with until I learned to make them like me, respect me, and want me in the trenches with them. It was a short leap from that to getting them to follow me when I became their boss. It was a step I had to take otherwise I would have lasted one year as the creative director of a boys club. You can disagree with me and how I managed my career surrounded by men. But don't just play by the rules. The men created these rules. Figure out some of your own tactics. Intelligence, dedication, hard work and honesty isn't enough. Sorry to say that but I have learned that this is true. Find a way to get these men on your side without compromising your integrity or your personal code and see if you're not happier and more successful in the male-dominated cultures. And read the book the way a woman reads a book, not the way a man does. The men are jumping around from section to section and reading out of order. The women read from the beginning to the end. That's how it was meant to be read, more like a novel and less like a business manual. And lighten up. One of the reasons men walk on eggshells around us is that we can't relax with them and smile at a good joke that isn't sexually intimidating or scatological (this is their favorite form of humor so we have to be careful.) I tried to make my points with humor and good nature so that you would enjoy reading it.

alice

March 2, 2008 10:03 AM

Personally, I've read it and thought it was right on the money. It is very truthful and personal in most business "help" books.
Yes, Life isn't perfect and I've made many of the same mistakes. The up side is she details how she got past them, when most of us get stuck. I really think it is more relevent than ever with the business culture as it is today. Tight markets put many of these guys in survival of the fittest mode and egos are on edge. I think those who push to skip the book are only hoping to keep the secrets for themselves! I'm on my second go round and taking notes.

Yulia Vershinina

May 12, 2008 11:23 AM

I have to agree with Nina and desagree with Diane. I work in higher education industry and although there is almost 50/50 enrollment in some professional schools, women still have hard times securing top leadership positions in many companies. Just look around and you will see who is on the top, including leadership roles,executive boards etc.
I do have to say that men often do well because they help and support each other and women often feel like" I got there; it was hard and I will not share my success with anyone else." We have to get each other jobs and mentor other women on how to navigate the system.

linda warmsley

May 18, 2008 8:21 PM

As I see it, Seducing the Boys Club was a good read, which many of the tips and strategies were resourceful. I applaud Nina for her ploy to seduce and manipulate her way to the top -apparently this strategy worked for Nina --unlike some other females who literally took the word "seduce" at face value. As for myself, I read the book from the beginning to the end and will read it again. Matter of fact, I purchased one for my teenage son (17;JR in HS) because I think he could learn from her workplace experience--from Nina's perspective. Additionally, I will employ Nina's tips as well as continue working on my self development while modifing my plan of action for my survival and journey in the workplace. I am the only female in an all male environment; small office under 20 people; no support, and it is not pretty.

"Bullied" In the Workplace

linda warmsley

May 18, 2008 8:25 PM

As I see it, Seducing the Boys Club was a good read, which many of the tips and strategies were resourceful. I applaud Nina for her ploy to seduce and manipulate her way to the top -apparently this strategy worked for Nina --unlike some other females who literally took the word "seduce" at face value. As for myself, I read the book from the beginning to the end and will read it again. Matter of fact, I purchased one for my teenage son (17;JR in HS) because I think he could learn from her workplace experience--from Nina's perspective. Additionally, I will employ Nina's tips as well as continue working on my self development while modifing my plan of action for my survival and journey in the workplace. I am the only female in an all male environment; small office under 20 people; no support, and it is not pretty.

Nina email me, we need to talk.

"Bullied" In the Workplace

Mahmood Sharif Mahdi

July 24, 2008 10:16 AM

Sorry for being a bit too arrogant in my comments.

I believe there is more to women in society than meets a "man's eye".

There are, perhaps, unavoidable factors that may influence people to act in accordance to their situations.

Guess I have to be a bit more experienced to realize what ppl similar to my age might face in the 'distant future'.

I personally believe that there should remain even proper respect of women in society than just fatal attraction.

My sincere apologies to Nina Disesa. Let this not be seen as an excuse to my previous statement. Again, my apologies.

Ann

November 19, 2008 12:52 PM

These reviews are really interesting. I read the book and as a 20-something working in engineering and eventually hoping/planning on upper management, I've found this book pretty much on the money. I've been playing around with my own spin on it I suppose at work and the results have been gratifying.

Jake

December 7, 2008 1:01 PM

To me it's all marketing. 98% of Nina's suggestions are gender-neutral tips for succeeding in the business world. 'Be nice and take credit for your work'? I'm pretty sure anyone ought to do those.

If anyone knows marketing, it's Nina DiSesa. There aren't too many books about women rising up and 'seducing' men to get there. She says so herself: without using this framework and racy terms like 'S&M', this is just another business book. Throw those in? You have a bestseller. There's a reason she's atop McCann Erickson, and it has nothing to do with her gender. She brilliantly marketed herself and her brands - just like the men who also rose to the top - and now her book. Kudos.

Angela Brandenburg

February 2, 2009 7:14 PM

I'm 25 and about to launch my own business in male dominated industry and all I can say is that I am grateful to have read this book! Yes, Jake, she is great at what she does - marketing, and that's why she won so many awards (the story about having to get up and walk from the back to the front of the room was hysterical).

What I took from this book the most is not that it is about "seduction or manipulation," it is about what makes women great leaders, their "instincts and ability to tune into others emotions." I have been repeatedly told that my emotions hold me back, but I know it is also what continues to drive me. Nina's book encourages women to listen to their instinct and teach others how to do the same, yet find the balance in a man's world where it's not too overwhelming for them by using tools that we know will perk their attention.

I have already recommended this book to several others. And have purchased it for two of my female mentors. This has become one of my favorites - thanks again Nina!

Angela

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