Member Publication: “Be a Gutsy Girl!”: Essentialism in Success-at-Work Books for Women

Please check out the recent publications by OOW members Patti Giuffre and Gretchen R. Webber. 2020. “‘Be a Gutsy Girl!’: Essentialism in Success-at-Work Books for Women.” Gender Issues, Online First.


This article examines how essentialism is depicted in recent popular press “success-at-work” books that are marketed for women. Our qualitative content analysis of fourteen advice books published from 2013 to 2018 identifies the subtle, yet powerful, messages about how men and women supposedly “are” and the depictions of men and women at work. We find a persistent tension in the advice that relies on two types of essentialism in this success discourse: (1) women are deficient, and, simultaneously, (2) women have unique strengths. We argue that these contradictory depictions of essentialism are embedded in the organizational logic of workplaces and bolster gendered ideal worker norms in the new economy. We discuss the implications of these conflicting representations and speculate about their impact and consequences for eradicating gender inequality at work.

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