The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work

The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work

Author: Michelle P. King

Publisher: Atria

Pages: 336 pages

ISBN: 1982110929

Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer

The disappointment arrived just after lunch. That promotion you hoped to get didn’t happen. No raise, either, because your boss wants you to make a few improvements in your performance, to tweak your skills, to have more time to grow even though you have been improving, tweaking, and growing for months.

Frustrating? You bet. But as you’ll see in The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work, by Michelle P. King, you can’t blame yourself. Get a better degree, lean in, create a personal brand, find your fit – women have been told all these things and more when it comes to business and business opportunities. So, you need to change and adapt to your workplace, right?

Wrong, says King. The problem isn’t you. It’s your workplace. Your opportunities are limited because, in nearly “every level of leadership in corporate America,” women are “underrepresented.” The situation is worse for women of color. And the fact that women overall continue to earn less than their male counterparts for the same work makes matters even worse.

What is a woman to do? 

Assuming a masculine persona is not the answer, nor is existing silently as a “token” hire, says King. She stresses that she does not advocate change at the expense of men. Instead, she argues, making adjustments in the workplace that benefit women also will benefit their male co-workers in ways they may not have considered. However, until widespread change occurs, she says, women should understand and prepare for the “phases” they will experience in the workplace. Doing so can help to bring about “fixes” along the way.

According to The Fix, the first phase is the Achievement Phase, which occurs at the beginning of a woman’s career. Here, ‘fitting in’ – conforming – is encouraged and pay inequality appears. The Endurance Phase at mid-career comes with a management battle over “gender norms” and a “Catch-22” for male co-workers. The Contribution Phase arrives for women who have been at the workplace for a lengthy period and are now grappling with leadership issues. With effort and teaching, they stand a chance to create a better workplace for all employees.

Many women who have received a paycheck know the frustration of goals that seem to dangle just beyond reach. The Fix offers a way to change that, but that way requires buy-in by others. Women in business already know about practices of inequality and unfair assumptions in the workplace. King recalls those practices and assumptions and points out the “hidden” ways the status quo is kept.

For King, forewarned is forearmed. She sharpens observations readers may already have made and offers ideas. Will implementing these ideas help to dismantle barriers that hold women back in the workplace? Not without buy-in by every employee, especially men.