Inside the Women's Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business
Author: Pamela Ryckman
Pub Date: May 2013
Print Edition: $22.95
Print ISBN: 9780814432532
Page Count: 272
e-Book ISBN: 9780814432549
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Who knew Nora Ephron was such a Harpy? Barbara
Walters, that’s who.
Following Ephron’s death in June 2012, the New York Post
reported that she and Walters were members of the Harpies,
described as “a close-knit cadre of lunching ladies who’ve met to
eat and argue over twelve years at Michael’s, the Four Seasons,
The Harpies include other media moguls too, and according
to my favorite tabloid, the ladies often gossip about Hillary—her
whereabouts, her fatigue, her hair—and engage in “intense
debate” over the latest headlines. “God forbid you were wrong,”
a Harpy insider told the Post, “or you were dismissed and reduced
to rubble . . . with great affection.” It seemed that these women
were exacting and precise, that they held themselves and each
other to high standards, and that they pushed and challenged
their friends. But they did it with humor and ultimate kindness.
I was approaching my book deadline when I read about the
Harpies at the breakfast table. “See?” I jumped up and cheered.
“All the girls are doing it! It’s sweeping the nation!”
As a cabal of bold-faced names, the Harpies are pretty swank in
their own right. They’re movers and shakers, no doubt. But, I won-
dered aloud, do they know they’re part of something bigger? Do
they know that their group and others just like it are changing the
My three sons rolled their eyes. They raced out the door to their
I didn’t plan to write a book at this very moment in my life, but
it’s my family’s consensus that with all the testosterone at home, I
needed to talk to some girls. And once I started interviewing
dynamic, motivated women, I found I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know
exactly what was happening, but I knew it was important.
At the beginning, it was a gut feeling, a notion that I had
unearthed something meaningful that was shaping women’s lives.
But I didn’t yet realize how important it would be for me personally.
I didn’t know I’d end up living this story as I was writing it, that it
would be the story that changed my life. But more on that later.
It all started at a women’s conference in California. There, I met
one female senior executive who introduced me to another and
then another, and each one was fascinating and charismatic, en-
gaging and kind, vulnerable and bold. They didn’t carp about
“balance” or lament not “having it all.” They didn’t feel oppressed
and under siege, and their days weren’t some dismal, tough slog.
They took evident joy in both work and personal life, adoring jobs
and families alike. “Why don’t we ever see anything about women
having fun at work?” one woman asked. “Sure, there are battles,
but I work so hard and I love it. Can’t we ever accentuate the joys
over the battles?”
While it’s not PC to say this, these ladies were also cute. I liked
their outfits. They had chic shoes and healthy hair. Here were
women comfortable in their own skin, not trying to dress and act
and sound like guys. Here were the opposite of hoary archetypes—
those sharp-elbowed, steamrolling, ball-busting bitches. And here
was an antidote to the dreary navel-gazing and hairy-legged petu-
lance of Women’s Studies 101. These chicks were successful, but
still really fun.
So what was their secret? I started listening and learning, observing
how they made it all work. And before long, they were gushing
about their girlfriends.
Professional women from their twenties to their seventies started
recounting hilarious stories, and often they’d begin like this: “Well,
in my dinner group. . . .” “Your dinner group?” I’d ask. “Who’s in
your dinner group? What do you do when you get together?” Eat,
naturally. Drink, copiously. And gossip, naughtily. It all sounded
like a blast.
I started to discover dinner groups and salons and coworking and
networking circles in major cities across the United States. In
almost every case, the women thought they were alone in assem-
bling clusters of dear, smart girlfriends who met regularly to learn
and share. They’d never heard of the other groups, and when I told
them they were thrilled. “You’re onto something,” they’d say, and
then introduce me to their pals.
At that point, I didn’t have a thesis or a commissioned article or
a book contract. All I had was a hunch. Yet accomplished, in-
demand women agreed to talk to me. They made themselves avail-
able for open-ended interviews that, for all they knew, might go
nowhere—just because a friend had asked them to. So many times
in the course of reporting, I heard, “I never talk to the press. I’m
only talking to you because so-and-so said to.” The ladies were
busy, but not too busy to do a favor for a friend.
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