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Our Separate Ways [Hardcover]

Ella L. J Edmondson Bell , Stella M Nkomo
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 4 2001

Prepare to change the way you see your colleagues-and yourself

In Our Separate Ways, authors Ella Bell and Stella Nkomo take an unflinching look at the surprising differences between black and white women's trials and triumphs on their way up the executive ladder. Based on groundbreaking research that spanned eight years, Our Separate Ways compares and contrasts the experiences of 120 black and white female managers in the American business arena. In-depth histories bring to life the women's powerful and often difficult journeys from childhood to professional success, highlighting the roles that gender, race, and class played in their development.

Although successful professional women come from widely diverse family backgrounds, educational experiences, and community values, they share a common assumption upon entering the workforce: "I have a chance." Along the way, however, they discover that people question their authority, challenge their intelligence, and discount their ideas. And while gender is a common denominator among these women, race and class are often wedges between them.

In Our Separate Ways, you will find candid discussions about stereotypes, learn how black women's early experiences affect their attitudes in the business world, become aware of how white women have-perhaps unwittingly-aligned themselves more often with white men than with black women, and see ways that our country continues to come to terms with diversity in all of its dimensions.

Whether you are a human resources director wondering why you're having trouble retaining black women, a white female manager considering the role of race in your office, or a black female manager searching for perspective, you will find fresh insights about how black and white women's struggles differ and encounter provocative ideas for creating a better workplace environment for everyone.

Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell is the Leon E. Williams Visiting Professor of Business Administration at the Tuck School of Business. Stella M. Nkomo is a Professor of Business Leadership at the University of South Africa Graduate School of Business Leadership.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on an eight-year survey of 825 black and white female managers, and juxtaposing the stories of seven black and seven white women executives at some of the most prestigious companies in America, this book illustrates the profound impact of "early life lessons" on women's professional identities and "reveals the power of geography and social location when combined with race." Foregrounding "the first generation of [black women] to hold managerial or executive positions" (many took their first jobs in the 1970s), the authors show that "the combined effects of race and gender create not only very different organizational identities and career experiences, but also very separate paths to the doors of corporate America." Bell and Nkomo (business professors at Dartmouth College and South Africa's UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership, respectively) are particularly adept at delineating the prejudices that create special problems for black women in the executive suite, without losing sight of the experiences they share with white women. They conclude that while there are crucial differences in the experiences of white and black female executives, the similarities suggest the enduring power of gender discrimination in the workplace and "the extent to which managerial careers are steeped in patriarchal ideology." An epilogue "offers suggestions on how to begin the sometimes difficult dialogue between black and white women executives. Bell and Nkomo have provided a well-researched and thought-provoking look at some important aspects of race and gender in corporate America.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"Our separate ways" is usually used in reference to a point of departure, but here it describes the quite different paths black and white female managers have followed to achieve success. Bell and Nkomo have been tracking the relationships among race and gender and advancement for more than 10 years. They discuss the results of their research, which included extensive life history interviews with 80 black women and 40 white women and in-depth surveys of 825 black and white women managers. Because "black women executives remain a mystery to others in their organizations," Bell and Nkomo focus on the individual stories and personal experiences of 14 women. These poignant narratives highlight six "significant flashpoints" in the women's journeys: breaking into management, adjusting to the corporate environment, encountering barriers, overcoming barriers, making change in the work environment, and coming to terms with personal life choices. Bell and Nkomo also consider the way black and white women managers view themselves and their female colleagues. David Rouse
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars At the Sharp End Feb. 3 2004
Format:Hardcover
Bell and Nkomo dive straight to the heart of the matter. They base their findings on comprehensive personal interviews of African-American and white women working as managers or executives. Ultimately, the authors hit the reader over the head with the obvious: People from strikingly different backgrounds bring profound personal differences to the workplace. Too often, organizations stupidly attempt homogenizing everyone into minor variations on the existing (typically---older, white, and male) leadership theme. Unusually (Bell and Nkomo cited no such cases), organizations may wisely embrace the differences so that the organization and its people benefit from a more perceptive and inclusive world view.
Folks who need not spend their working hours "fitting in" contribute (A) more (B) less to the organization. Leaders who accept their people for who and what they are get (A) more (B) less from their subordinates. Guess where the authors suggest the readers take their outfits.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Imagining and working with the Other Sept. 22 2003
Format:Hardcover
If you are wondering why the Black woman in your section of your company doesn't seem to want to socialize with you or seems guarded around her White co-workers or why the White women in your organization get all riled up about sexism but are silent when it comes to racism this is the book for you. I recommend this book along with Divided Sisters for those who really want Black and White women to unite in the workplace. These two tomes will give you more than a clue. They'll give you guidelines as how to build a truly "diverse" workplace where everyone is welcomed AS THEY ARE and not as stereotypes others want them to play out. If you are a Black woman, you'll understand why you see your work status merely as a "job" and not as a career and why you feel so much like an outsider looking in at your organization.
The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that I wanted more in-depth analysis of how the White female managers confronted the idea of Black women as equals (and not just on the job), something I've experienced that White women have a difficult time doing in the workplace.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into the Other Sept. 22 2003
Format:Hardcover
If you are wondering why the Black woman in your section of your company doesn't seem to want to socialize with you or seems guarded around her White co-workers or why the White women in your organization get all riled up about sexism but are silent when it comes to racism this is the book for you. I recommend this book along with Divided Sisters for those who really want Black and White women to unite in the workplace. These two tomes will give you more than a clue. They'll give you guidelines as how to build a truly "diverse" workplace where everyone is welcomed AS THEY ARE and not as stereotypes others want them to play out. If you are a Black woman, you'll understand why you see your work status merely as a "job" and not as a career and why you feel so much like an outsider looking in at your organization.
The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that I wanted more in-depth analysis of how the White female managers confronted the idea of Black women as equals (and not just on the job), something I've experienced that White women have a difficult time doing in the workplace.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women Aug. 21 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is a must for anyone who is interested in the career paths of women in the corporate world. That would include spouses of, grown children of, and parents of women. It is based upon Harvard research including in-depth case studies of both white and black women from childhood to the present day, career journeys one will find fascinating. When the reader returns to his/her workplace after completing this book, diversity will take on a more significant meaning. This book is also a useful tool in college career development classes. Rather than a dull read, it keeps the reader coming back for more.
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