Last week, I half-joked that if I taught a class in management, Tina Fey’s Bossypants would be the only book on the reading list. Half-joked, because that’s exactly what Tina Fey does. She’s funny, sure, but reading her book will give budding entrepreneurs plenty of inspiration — and yes, actual advice for women trying to achieve their goals!
“A Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter” (see this blog post for the full text) really speaks to our quest for fulfillment:
Lead her away from Acting but not all the Way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes. And not have to wear high heels.
What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.
Isn’t that the truth.
Luckily, Fey gives some thoroughly actionable advice. Apart from telling women how to use the rules of improv in to get ahead (“MAKE STATEMENTS instead of asking apologetic questions!”) she lists the rules of management she learned from SNL’s Lorne Michaels, whose “managerial style was the opposite of Bossypants.” My favorite rule? Number Seven: “Don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to run into in the hallway at three in the morning.” Sound advice, even if you’re not writing all night.
I also love Fey’s brutally honest take on balancing work and motherhood. She rightly says that “How do you juggle it all?” is the rudest question you can ask a woman, especially since it’s usually accompanied by a look that says “You’re fucking this all up, aren’t you?” She’s candid about how rewarding work is (sometimes) and how un-fun parenting is (sometimes). She’s turned down mother of the year awards, because “How can any of us know until [my daughter is] thirty-three and the personality dust has settled?”
But the essay that has gotten the most press is “We Don’t Care If You Like It,” Fey’s take on where women stand in the male-dominated world of comedy. It inspired Theo Pauline Nestor’s post on “Tina Feyminism”, and Slate‘s ode to “tough girl feminism.” So it’s no surprise that Carla and I ended up talking about how inspirational we found the essay, too.
Fey encourages women to go “Under! Around! Through!” to achieve their goals, and not to waste their time trying to educate anyone who has a problem with that. This is similar to what Carla has always advised when changing the conversation about women in business: don’t waste time fretting about the negative press, focus on making stories of your own.
Tina Fey is a real inspiration, and not just because she’s won the Mark Twain prize for American Humor. She’s managed to become massively successful, never pulling any punches when she sees sexism but rather using humor to jab those who deserve it, all while making her way gracefully into the limelight. I heartily recommend this book, and I know I plan to apply some of Bossypants’ managerial lessons to my own business. As soon as I stop laughing, anyway.