Sarah Cooper is like the anti-Sheryl Sandberg.
Instead of telling women to "lean in," the former Google employee is offering more practical advice for women in tech with her new book, called "How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings."
"Ambitious women are scary. In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they're not perceived as pushy, aggressive, or competent," the book's promotional materials explains. Chapters include "How to be harassed without hurting his career" and "How to bring your true self to work and then hide it completely." Each chapter ends with a list of "inaction items."
Behind the humor there is, of course, a serious message.
"'How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings' was sparked from all the things I did at Google to seem more likable and approachable, like being less direct with feedback and using all those smiley faces in my emails, as well as the double standards I saw between my male and female coworkers," she said.
It was inspired by a blog post she wrote called "9 Non-threatening Leadership Strategies for Women" which went instantly viral with "many women writing to tell me they experienced the same thing," she said.
That post has become part of the book. It offers such gems as: "If a male coworker steals your idea in a meeting, thank him for it. Give him kudos for how he explained your idea so clearly. And let’s face it, no one might’ve ever heard it if he hadn’t repeated it."
The stories and illustrations in the book are sometimes fictionalized, sometimes not, but all inspired by real incidents experienced by Cooper, her friends, and her co-workers.
Katie Canales/Business Insider
'I got free food and lots of free material'
After spending five-plus years as a woman in tech working her way up to a manager position at Google, Cooper had plenty of inspiration for the book and her new career as a comedian. She's best known for her previous book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings and for her blog, The Cooper Review.
Although Cooper also did a short stint at Yahoo, both books and much of her blog was mainly inspired by Google, she told Business Insider.
"At Google, I got free food and lots of free material," she said.
Beyond giving women in tech a much-needed laugh, Cooper hopes to let women know that, no, they aren't imagining it.
That's a super helpful message in today's #MeToo world. It is particularly potent given the recent uproar at Google as the company comes clean over how it has dealt with various sexual harassment incidents.
A Non-Threatening Women's Foundation
We asked Cooper if she considered reaching out to Sandberg with a copy of the book. Sandberg is, of course, the former Googler, now COO at Facebook, who is famously leading today's renewed feminist movement seeking gender equality in the workplace.
Cooper tells us she didn't send the book to Sandberg, but if she ever gets a chance to hang with her, "I'd like to hear how much she leans back after leaning in, and then leans in again, and then has to lean back again, and if it's good workout for her abs."
We also asked her if she would model her book after Lean In organization and start a Non-Threatening Women's Foundation, with meetups and support circles.
"Yes I'd love to start a non-threatening woman's foundation where we'd probably spend all our meetings just apologizing to each other," she quipped.
But she also had a more serious response: "The ultimate point of the book is to stop worrying if you're hurting men's feelings, so maybe I'd start a foundation for Threatening Women!"
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