January Book Pick: Work Like A Woman by Mary Portas

I’m so excited to be continuing with my monthly book club recommendations and to kick off the new year I’ve picked a very inspirational and timely book by the brilliant Mary Portas. My book of the month is Work Like a Woman, A manifesto for change.

Suitable for men and women of all age groups.


Know the rules so you can break them effectively.

Dalai Lama

What does Work Like A Woman even mean? Well, in this book Mary Portas outlines some of the important but slightly horrifying facts and statistics around the imbalance of our working culture (past to present) and explores what needs to happen to make business a more inclusive place.

Based on her own experience from starting a career dressing windows at Harrods, to becoming CEO of her own company, we hear an honest account of the challenges, lessons and pivotal moments that got her to where she is today, which includes having to take on the alpha male culture. She shares some very personal stories and observations as well as some really well thought through ideas on what the future of work could look like if we all come together to make a change.

I recommend this book to everyone because I think that it is such an important discussion that we should all be a part of and contributing to. Above all, it contains some really valuable insights into making career decisions, the importance of work life balance and a guide to #WorkLikeAWoman for different age groups!

The changing workplace

Mary Portas covers a lot of ground in this book but there a few key things that really stood out to me as being crucial to changing the way we work for the better.

Fundamentally we’re stuck in a catch 22: We can’t get to the top because of the codes created by men, but we can’t change things if we don’t get to the top.

Mary Portas

One of the chapters is named ‘Bringing your whole self to work’ which resonated with me. The premise of this is about authenticity in the workplace and creating an inclusive culture where people feel at home. I’ve often heard people talk about their ‘work self’ with the view that they have to act in a certain way to fit in and keep up with their peers. Of course as employees we have to think about what behaviour is and isn’t appropriate in different situations, but that shouldn’t mean we have to act differently at work vs home. This is about being more open and transparent and bringing more emotion to our work, rather than leaving it all at the door.

To summarise this chapter she says: ‘I have a better business because it has soul. And that is working like a woman.’

Another interesting theme from the book is around creating a workplace of the future, that works (for both business and individuals).

Millennials are set to make up 3/4 of the global workforce by 2035 and are a driving force for the change needed to address some of the challenges in today’s society. They value transparency and place importance on team cohesion, supervisor support and flexibility. They are committed, energetic and are prepared to leave if they don’t feel they’re getting what they need from a certain role(s). So shouldn’t we be exploring what this generation think and what ideas they have as well as the existing workforce today? I know I’ve got an idea of my ideal working day.

To be honest I don’t think it differs much between millennials and other generations, especially when it comes to flexibility and worklife balance which is so important for wellbeing and has a knock on affect to productivity.

People are interested in working more flexibly to suit their lifestyles, whether that be to accomodate time with the family, hobbies or interests and personal development, without compromising the opportunties they have at work to progress. For example taking 9 – 12 months maternity leave to have a family puts women at a disadvantage to their male counterparts. Businesses are starting to make changes to address these challenges, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, and it can’t happen overnight. There’s also a responsibility on us all to contribute in some way which leads me nicely onto the last section.

Time for action

What I really loved about this particular book was the clear call to action for everyone to play their part in creating a fairer future when it comes to the world of work, summarised in 5 clear points.

1. Use your voice.
2. Move away from an outdated alpha culture.
3. Find your tribe.
4. Bring your whole self to work.
5. Create a new way of working that benefits us all. Together we are stronger.

I know i’ll be doing my best to play my part in this culture shift and i’d encourage you too as well.

Here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

As always have a read, please share your comments below and on social media, spread the word and let’s #WorkLikeAWoman!

One thought on “January Book Pick: Work Like A Woman by Mary Portas

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.