Susan Abrams 90 rewrites the rules for achieving success
Abrams '90 should know what it takes for women to succeed
-- she wrote the book on it.
is the author of the recently published The New Success
Rules for Women (Prima Publishing, $24.95). In it, Abrams
shares the strategies that have guided the careers of 45 of
the nation's most prominent businesswomen.
Foods CEO Betsy Holden 82, New York Times
President Janet Robinson and Lifetime Television President
and CEO Carole Black are just a few of the women who shared
the "secrets" of their success with Abrams. The result: a
widely praised tome that brings a 21st-century sensibility
to the old rules for climbing the career ladder. Even Kellogg
Dean Don Jacobs has weighed in, calling the book "a must-read
business guide for women at any level, in any industry."
the seed for the book was planted more than a decade ago when,
as a recent college graduate working on Wall Street, she searched
for female role models who'd broken through the glass ceiling.
She found precious few. Concerned, she asked herself, "What
do we need to do to change this?"
studies by Catalyst, an organization that tracks the progress
of women in the workforce, indicate that Abrams' perceptions
were dead-on. According to a recent study, women make up 46
percent of the labor force, but comprise just 11.2 percent
of the offices of vice president and above at Fortune 500
companies. Among the highest-paid workers, just 3 percent
these numbers inch up at a glacial pace, and thought, 'Wow,
there really is a need for this book,'" she said. "The more
I researched and learned, the more committed I became. This
book is my vehicle to affect change."
the tips Abrams gleaned from her sources:
to be passionate about your job.
feedback aggressively and don't personalize what you hear.
accept "no" for an answer.
and nurture your network at every opportunity.
that last point in particular that proved most helpful to
Abrams as she sought to write a book that would be of use
to women everywhere.
was to highlight the key strategies women had used to become
successful, regardless of their industry," she said. "I was
looking for people who had started at entry level and had
worked their way to the top once I researched my target list,
I began where I had relationships. Relationships are really
the currency with which to get things done."
Abrams' first sources was Nancy Karch, former director of
McKinsey & Co., where Abrams had worked as a consultant after
graduating from Kellogg. In the middle of her interview with
Abrams, Karch got on the phone with Sue Kronick, chairman
and CEO of Burdines. "'Sue, I've got Susan Abrams here, and
you really must talk to her,'" Abrams remembers Karch saying.
"Before I knew it, I was in Sue's office in Miami, and she
shared her insights and her Rolodex with me as well."
connections grew out of Abrams' relationships with former
colleagues at Goldman Sachs, where she had worked as an analyst
after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, and
at the Chicago Children's Museum, where she spent six years
working in marketing and strategic planning in the 1990s.
can be formed anywhere," says Abrams, who notes that another
connection was made through a parent at her son's soccer game.
"It's simply a matter of putting yourself out there and letting
people know what you are doing."
is doing a great deal these days. In addition to "pounding
the pavement" to promote her book, she is a visiting scholar
at Kellogg, working with the Center for Nonprofit Management
to build bridges between Kellogg and the nonprofit community.
She is married to Kellogg alum Bill Abrams 90 and is
the mother of three children -- Andy, 7, Jessica, 5, and Caroline,
3. The family lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.
time for her family while pursuing her other interests is
a "blending act," a term she is careful to distinguish from
"balancing act." Balance, writes Abrams, is a state of tension
and implies competing needs. Blending allows for more flexibility.
It allows women to adjust the mix of activities in their lives
according to their priorities at different times.
days, Abrams says, "I'm doing it through making choices as
to how I spend my time. I have to cut back in other areas,
but when I'm no longer comfortable with that, I'll make changes."
those changes may be, it's likely Abrams will continue to
write -- and follow -- her own rules for success.
New Success Rules for Women is available in bookstores
everywhere and through Abrams' Web site, www.newsuccessrules.com.