Stiletto Network

Stiletto Network, Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing The Face of Business, by Pamela Ryckman, Amacom 2013

Read this hot colorful compendium of fantastical tales of female

collaboration and cooperation even if you don’t buy into it. It’s that much fun. Sure there is inspiration in the singular stories of individual females’ safe passage from dead-ends to rising successes. Like Penny Herscher.

When I flipped through the Contents and Index, I was looking for heavy hitters, preferably in manufacturing and supply chain. What I found were women who have risen, mostly, in the areas of entertainment, start-ups, social media, retails, etc. Not a lot of Carly Fiorinas or the iRobot lady. But at least there are more of them, and they are richer, and they talk more. So let’s go with it.

Back to Penny Herscher, at one point CEO of Simplex Solutions, an electronic design automation firm serving the semiconductor industry. Herscher in the 90s became part of a group of women who met for dinner, or coffee – powerful women like Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay, Joy Covey, CFO of Amazon, Kim Polese, CEO of Marimba, and Dana Evan, CFO of VeriSign. Since then, these women have all sold out, moved up, changed jobs. Investors, mentors, advisors, all of these valuable roles developed for the women as they got more visible and accessible in this world.

“It was so validating when we started organizing these dinners. It was incredibly helpful to meet with other women, telling funny stories about the absurdities of our lives, the way people interacted with us,” says Herscher, who is in her early fifties and sold Simplex for $300 M in 2002. “As long as those gatherings don’t become a pity party. I have no time for the ‘woe is us, men are so awful, it’s not fair’ But if the conversation is constructive, which it was, you can hae a lot of fun with women because you can be more relaxed.”

Author Pamela Ryckman, a journalist who has written for The New York Times, Financial Times, etc., herself experienced it: “As I spoke with vibrant ladies for this book and watched them lobby for one another, I realized that every opportunity I’d gotten in journalism had come through a woman,” Ryckman reflects. “I’ve written for amazing made editors, but it was always a woman who got me through the door.” Considering all the women who shared their time, provided advice, and in numerous ways collaborated on her debut as an author, she adds, “Stiletto Network is a testament to the power of its thesis: that these networks work.”