With the death of Katharine Graham in July, the nation's attention was once again focused on a strong, successful woman in business. The powerful woman who ran the Washington Post taught many up-and-comers an important lesson on rising through the ranks: it's possible to go far without losing your femininity.

Today, women make up nearly half of the working population, and they continue to make strides with their innovative thinking and inclusive management styles. The Census Bureau's 1997 Survey of Women-Owned Business Enterprises showed that women-owned businesses are growing at a record pace. The number of women-owned firms grew two-and-a-half times faster than all U.S. businesses and now comprise one-quarter of the nation's businesses. They continue to diversify into industries like construction and transportation, both long considered the male domain.

It's impossible to ignore the role of women in business, and publishers are taking note. This month we highlight six career-building books that will help women of every age and rank find fulfillment in their work.

A page-turning splash of a book is Mary Foley's Bodacious: An AOL Insider Cracks the Code to Outrageous Success for Women with Martha Finney. Funny and smart, Foley says the business Good Girl image has got to go. In short, women, be bodacious! What's bodacious? It's a way of being courageous, creative, larger than life, and self-respecting. Working her way up at AOL from an $8-an-hour customer service job to one of the top female executives, Foley lives the philosophy of bodaciousness. Self-confidence and self-esteem are priority one for Foley, and she wants to help other women recognize self-worth through career. When women carry bodacious power, Foley argues, everyone at work benefits from their creativity and perspective. If Foley can go to work one day without her pants and still impress clients, I think we all have a trick or two to learn from her.

Research on women's workplace issues shows that women have failed to support and improve each other's workplace performance. Pat Heim and Susan Murphy, corporate consultants on gender issues, address this failure in their new book, In the Company of Women: Turning Workplace Conflict Into Powerful Alliances with Susan K. Golant. Eye-opening statistics as well as personal stories illuminate the destructive tendencies of women faced with the success or failure of another woman's career. With a great deal of tact and concern, the authors seek to outline a new role for women and their relationships within the business setting. Especially effective are chapters on promotion, handling conflicts with style and effective female leadership. Today, one-third of all business school graduates are women. Learning more about the unique perspective and potential of women at work is men's work as well. This book is a good place for all managers to start. Sometimes women aren't just destructive of other women's careers, they destroy their own. Same Game, Different Rules: How to Get Ahead Without Being a Bully Broad, Ice Queen or Ms. Understood by Jean Hollands explores the changes any woman can make in her own management and interaction style to forge ahead in her career. Hollands has made a career of showing high-powered executives how bad behavior at the office costs companies a lot of money. She follows up her work by showing women how bad office behavior can stop their earning potential dead in its tracks. Hollands notes that many women misunderstand the notion of aggressiveness in the workplace, aiming its power at co-workers rather than at its logical source, the work! She also notes how the timid among us can effectively put an end to the Bully Broad management style many women utilize. Powerful and punchy, Same Game, Different Rules gives women the go-ahead to change an unproductive management style and reap the rewards of great relationships at work.

Not every book on women in business focuses on relationships. A handy little book for women in the workplace is the aptly named PowerTools for Women in Business by Aliza Sherman. Sherman is a founder of several Web sites for women and Webgrrls International, a networking group for Internet-career women. Based on her experience with co-workers, Sherman created a list she calls PowerTools, life tools she thinks every woman should pack in her career toolbox. From lists of books to read to short checklists and exercises, Sherman makes sure women's tools are tuned and honed. An example: She says Tackle Technology is a premium tool, like a saw or hammer. She offers the names of good books on Web building and makes technology sound like a standard item in any girl's toolbox. This practical book would be a great gift for any young woman getting ready to face the working world.

While PowerTools helps women with the basic tools, The Innovative Woman: Creative Ways to Reach Your Potential in Business and Beyond by Norma Carr-Ruffino is the kind of book that adds a few exotic tools. Carr-Ruffino is a management professor who knows that the next level of achievement for women will be developing their innate creativity and learning how to communicate this creativity to co-workers and management. She maps a game plan for women to follow that includes making connections to creativity and leadership development through well-developed and explained exercises. Carr-Ruffino says these exercises help women develop skills for their current careers, but you never know where a little artistic creativity and innovation will take you. Just as women have always worked, they have always struggled with the delicate balance of work, family and personal goals. Successful Woman's Guide to Working Smart: 10 Strengths That Matter Most by Caitlin Williams helps women take stock of the strengths they have developed both in and out of the workplace, putting those skills in the most effective work-life form. Beginning with a self-assessment survey, Williams guides women through Ten Strengths, the principles she believes are most important to developing a healthy work-life balance. Then she creates guidelines for integrating the strengths into everyday work and home life. Williams says she wrote Working Smart to support a woman's quest for meaningful work and a healthy life balance. She achieves her goal beautifully.

Sharon Secor is a business writer based in Minnesota.

 

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