16 Apr Book Review: Work Wife by Erica Cerulo & Claire Mazur
In Work Wife: The Power of Female Friendship to Drive Successful Businesses, Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo examine not only their own successful work-wife-ship, but examples from a myriad of industries and friendship types. What results is a truly excellent book that should required reading for all humans in business. Dr. Donnelly was delighted to read this and immediately passed it onto Dr. Hinson, but penned this review before she did.
My husband frequently jokes I have two spouses – himself and Erin (Dr. H). I cannot function in either my personal or private life without both of them, and when we take the idea of ‘spouse’ to be someone we enter intentional and covenental relationships with, he’s not wrong. Erin and I were in for the long haul long before Abbey Research was even a seed of an idea – back when we were both still convinced we’d end up in full time academia – and our commitment to each other has only strengthened since we started this little venture. We get asked about it a lot – the friendship piece of this – and so I was delighted when I saw Work Wife blurbed on the Fug Girls Instagram. “A book full of other women like us?! Yes, pleeeeease” and went to order it immediately.
This book is full of stories, wisdom, examples, and yes, even citations, of how beneficial this friendship thing really is to business. The authors are clear that when they say ‘female’, they mean anyone who identifies as such, and the bulk of the book is comprised of interviews with teams of women as diverse as the ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ podcast team to ladies who have been making lingerie together in NYC for about thirty years. Different races, generations, ethnicities, socioeconomic brackets – it’s just about as many intersections within ‘business women’ as I could expect them to have and what struck me was the sameness. Sure, they executed differently, but the core elements of what made it all work went across the board.
They all talked about frank communication, and a willingness to apologize, and how to know everyone’s schedules and mental health. They talked about having systems that work for their team, and about how talking about business is seamless to talking about The Bachelor or their husbands or their dry cleaning. There are no hard and fast boundaries, instead their work encompasses their lives and their lives encompass their work.
All of this rang very, very true for how we operate. Our conversations regularly swing from the best way to research a new question we have about, say, rates of suicide among survivors of school shootings, and the ethical questions of designing that research, to why we cannot even with the latest Twitter drama, to ranking Sister Michael gifs in order of usefulness. We have separate Slack channels to keep ourselves organized, but our in-person convos are often no holds barred. The key to maintaining necessary balance for both ourselves and the teams in this book is knowing the other person well. I know when Erin needs to recharge her introvert batteries and I will leave her alone. She knows that if I do bother her while in that introvert hamster ball, it is an emergency. Erin knows when I’m doing things for my family’s other companies and steps into the gap for any Abbey Research needs. We know each other’s schedules and each other’s moods and each other’s families. And we never, ever, take each other for granted.
That last bit was emphasized by everyone in this book. Oh, and by the way, the stats tell us that all of these elements present in work wife relationships lead to more resilient and more profitable businesses in the long term. A 2013 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, since men are socialized to compete and women are socialized to collaborate, women-run businesses handle crisis more creatively and successfully. 2006 Gallup poll found that women are ranked higher as managers, since they are more predisposed to cultivate potential and build teams than their male counterparts. No. Surprise. Here.
If you are interested at all in organizational health, this is a book to pick up immediately. It’s a quick read, clocking in at around 200pp, but one I’m sure I’ll be returning to again and again.