Careers advice from Mrs Moneypenny

Penguin, £16.99

Mrs Moneypenny, aka Heather McGregor, a prominent columnist and spokesperson for women in business, has just launched a book: Mrs Moneypenny’s Careers Advice for Ambitious Women. It’s got a pink-themed cover and the script is girly. But the message is wholly pragmatic, in keeping with its author’s views on female success: play the system, don’t moan about it. Having managed motherhood on top of setting up recruitment firm Taylor Bennett, which she continues to run, McGregor is one of London’s most prodigious networkers, with a glitzy launch party last week to prove it.

It was a good party (lots of Moet) to celebrate a book that, unfortunately, doesn’t say anything new. Mrs Moneypenny told me in no uncertain terms that women have to just “get on with it”. What about the glass ceiling? “It’s a myth.” What about quotas? “Terrible idea. Next thing you know, you’ve got Katie Price on the board.”

The book is divided into chapters called such things as: “What you Know” and “Who You Know” which instructs women to make sure they get as many qualifications as possible (the former) because having letters after your name counts, and to network well (the second). “Being good at your job, in today’s fiercely competitive world, is simply not enough.”

Mrs Moneypenny’s advice originates from the right kind of thinking but tries to speak to too many women – from students to mothers. The result is that it all has an unsophisticated “one size fits all” flavour: how helpful, after all, is the suggestion to “think what an undergraduate degree from Oxford or Cambridge, an MBA from Harvard, or the letters QC after a name all say about someone[...] they say straight away that this person is different.” Indeed – but if you aren’t blessed with wealthy or dedicated parents to push you through the best schools, or the energy and guidance to get there yourself, this is hardly useful.

There are some nice practical suggestions: McGregor does not shy away from details. Joining a livery club or private members’ club are, she says, good ways to network.

This book is interesting for its can-do paradigm rather than its somewhat cobbled-together feeling advice lists. Yes, the world is asymmetric for women and men; no, things aren’t perfect for female professionals. But, says McGregor, that’s no reason to sit back and get left behind. Amen.