If you are a woman of fifteen or fifty-one, or indeed any other age, and you know that you want to reach for the stars, this book is for you.
The only qualification is that you have to want to go places in your career. If you are happy to bump along the ocean floor of life with almost everyone else, you might be happier reading a crime thriller. But if you are a woman who wants to get ahead, to swim to the top, to breathe in the oxygen that is above the waterline - or even to get some of the way towards it - buy this and read it.
Then pass it on to someone like you.
It contains the ten key things that I think women need to know if they want to succeed. They are all the things that I wish I had known at fifteen, twenty-five - or even thirty-five. I think I have achieved a lot in life. But if I had known all this, I would have achieved so much more.
Where did I learn it?
From observation and experience.
Observation is a powerful tool, especially when it is supplemented by interrogation. In my day job I meet literally hundreds of women each year, at all different stages of their careers. When I meet an interesting, aspirational or already successful woman, I turn into a sponge.
What gets her out of bed in the morning?
How is she planning to get where she is going in life?
Who, or what, has helped her achieve her goals thus far?
If I can't ask her directly, I observe, I research, I ask other people who know her.
How did Indra Nooyi end up running PepsiCo?
How did Janet Robinson end up running the New York Times Company?
How did Fiona Reynolds end up running the National Trust in the UK - an organization with 55,000 volunteer workers that cares for, among other things, over 7000 miles of our coastline?
What about women I have never met, such as Gail Kelly? How did she end up running Westpac, one of Australia's largest companies? I set to and read everything I could about Ms Kelly.
And experience. I have run a successful business for quite a while now and know, very personally, which of my actions have helped that business - and which have hindered. I write a weekly column in the Weekend Financial Times that is read all over the world, and women everywhere write in to give me their views on what works. More recently, I presented a TV series in the UK, which led me to meet many very successful women in the media world. There common themes running through the career success of all these women.
This book is not just for those women who want to be running big corporations, although those will be a key part of its readership. Success for some women will mean being an entrepreneur, or a leading academic, or rising to the top of the not-for-profit world. For some, success will simply mean returning to work after an extended career break to have a family.
If you are still in school, or university, or halfway through your career, or even retired and wondering if you have left it too late to try for success, read this book and see if it inspires you. There is no specific time in your career when you will need more, or less, help and support - at every age and at every stage women do better when they have the right ideas, the right focus, and the right advice.
I hope this book will provide some or all of those things for its readers.
So, why a book for women? Surely people of both sexes need help to the top?
Because women are different. And what makes us different is the simple biological fact that we have a womb. That might sound rather obvious, but this is what it means for our careers. Because many of us will have children, and will therefore almost certainly need career breaks and possibly flexibility in our employment as we raise a family, the world's employers are inclined to view us - all of us - as being distinct from our male colleagues.
You don't plan to have an employer? You are going to start your own business?
Well, the people who you will need to fund it - bankers, investors, suppliers - will also look at women differently.
Even if you plan never to have children (or to have your baby at a weekend and go back to work on the Monday), employers' views of you wil be partially or wholly affected by their experience of women having children and taking time off work. It may seem that there is nothing we can do about this - after all, I doubt genetic engineering will give men wombs in my lifetime. Indeed, we may not want to. Having and raising children can be a very rewarding experience. But there are lots of ways in which women can address this often invisible image problem, and put themselves in a position to succeed.
Moira Benigson, CEO of executive search consultancy The MBS Group, is continuously amazed to meet women leaders who, despite having a successful career, are not able to play the political game as well as men.
"In twenty-five years as a headhunter, I have seen women fail to manage their progression, and therefore their promotion, by not being as proactive within their career as men. When they see their ambitions fail to materialize, they may develop a "fear of flying"and choose to stay in roles that are well below their capability rather than going for the challenge of being at the top. As leadership expert Rebecca Shambaugh puts it:"It might not always be the glass ceiling, but the sticky floor" that is partly to blame."
This 'sticky floor' is widespread. In a global survey conducted by Accenture in 2011 of 3,400 business executives, 68 per cent of the women were found to believe that it took hard work and long hours to advance in a company.
Believe me, if it were just about long hours and hard work, more of us would be up there at the top. To get to the top, women need to do all the things that men do to get there - and they have to do extra as well.
What those things are, and how to go about them, is the basis of this book.
© Mrs Moneypenny