Book Review: An indispensable accessory for the modern working woman

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By Himani Kothari

Title: Little Black Book; Author: Otegha Uwagba; Publisher: 4thEstate/Harper Collins; Pages: 128; Price: Rs 299

Imagine being told that you would have to work till April next year (as per Equal Pay Day) at least to earn the same amount the male colleague sitting next to you did last year. Why? Because you’re a woman. But if the wage gap persists and equality remains a distant goal, doesn’t mean you have to lose hope. We can get smarter. Yes, it’s as simple as that.

And smart is as smart does, with simple things such as learning to begin work an hour earlier to plan the day ahead; getting verbal assurances and agreements into a tangible form; and avoiding distractions of social media are among the measures that can propel women in their chosen field, says Otegha Uwagba in this small but vital book.

Uwagba, who was born in Nigeria and has worked in some of London’s top ad agencies before setting up Women Who, a platform that connects and supports creative working women worldwide, packs her debut book with many more tips, tricks and motivation for women in creative fields at all levels.

From practical suggestions on how to write the perfect email to why dressing up for the job is important — without reading like a lookist rant — the “Little Black Book” has it all.

It also touches upon the importance of networking, using social media to build your personal brand and, most importantly, knowing your worth — mostly in the ticklish business of negotiating a salary.

It tells you to find your voice to get ahead of others. To be yourself and build on it. And perhaps it comes from personal experiences. When Uwagba wanted to write this book she went ahead and self-published it. She was later approached by 4th Estate.

Honestly, the book doesn’t have anything we already don’t know, but in the busy schedule of our eight-hour shifts, we tend to lose sight of who we are and what we set out to achieve. And that’s why we need books like these — to remind us who we really are and how important it is to retain this sentiment.

Take social media for instance. The temptation to look at your phone every time a notification pops up isn’t just a distraction but actually affects your productivity.

“Frequently interrupting your work to check or respond to messages stops you from getting properly immersed in it, as it takes the average person around 25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after a distraction,” warns Uwagba.

Or that “perfectionism is very often the enemy of progress”. We all strive for it, but as the book tells you, “Recognise where to draw the line and put your work out into the world. After all, if no one ever sees your work, then it doesn’t really exist, does it”?

The book is also important because unlike career guides by Indian writers — which usually dwell upon the stories of successful women, how they became what they became and how to replicate their success — this book doesn’t take this well-trodden path.

Because no two women have similar lives and similar sets of problems, one woman’s fight to the top hardly means anything to a reader sitting a million miles away.

When we pick up a book like this, we need real, relatable tips that will actually help us in day-to-day life. And this little book has them all. (IANS)

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