The Ten 'A Book of One's Own' Archetypes

In 2017, I founded the Business Book Awards, to celebrate the best of business writing and publishing. I picked a Judging Panel of ten female and ten male authors, publishers and business experts, who did a sterling job assessing the 150 books entered in our inaugural Awards.

Our category winners, the winner of an additional Judges’ Choice Award, and the winner of the overall Business Book of the Year Award were all experts in their field and great writers; their books were top quality. The author of every single one of our eleven award-winning books, including three co-authored books, was a white man.

As a lifelong advocate of women, I couldn’t let this lie, so as well as making changes to the categories and criteria of the Business Book Awards, I also did some secondary research and carried out my own survey and interviews with 50 women entrepreneurs and authors. I discovered that women are half as likely as men to start a business or to write their business book and suffer unconscious (and possibly conscious) bias in both business and publishing.

As I unpacked the detail of my interviews with the women entrepreneurs for my book, A Book of One’s Own – a manifesto for women to share their experience and make a difference, a set of 10 Women Archetypes stepped off the page and introduced themselves to me.

The first three Archetypes have protective roles, but their caution can sap women’s self-confidence about stepping into a leadership role or taking on a big project.

The Risk Assessor is on constant alert for potential downsides to any action. Studies have shown that women and men gauge risk differently; women are better at assessing odds than men, and this often manifests itself as an increased avoidance of risk. We need to confront our Risk Assessor and ask what the risks are of not taking on a project like taking on a new role, starting a business or writing a book, and constantly bear those potential losses in mind.

The Impostor represents the female tendency for perfectionism, the constant reviewing of events and discussions, and a fear of failure. Impostor Syndrome is supposedly a non-gendered condition, but women certainly believe that they suffer from it more than men. In general, men will consider themselves qualified for a job if they think they can do at least 60% of it; women will disqualify themselves if they believe there is 20% of the job that they can’t do.

The Twin – the phantom male twin we all have – often teams up with the Impostor to make women feel disheartened when they are ignored in male-dominated meetings, have their ideas taken over by men, or feel their gender excludes them from male-dominated social events and networks.

Even when we confront these first three archetypes and move ahead with a bigger role or risky project, three more Archetypes can ambush us.

Big Sister feels indispensable, and responsible for everyone’s well-being, professional and personal, in business and at home. We don’t always notice that our big-sisterly need to care for everyone can prevent colleagues and family members from stepping up and taking responsibility for themselves in a positive way, and freeing us up to get more done.

The Angel is an even more subtle and deep-seated siren call to women from an ancient archetype. She epitomises what your grandmother or even your mother may have considered the pure spirit of womanhood – self-effacing, supportive of others, especially men, putting family before herself or her work. Although her aim is only to prevent you from getting above yourself in a man’s world, our own Angel has to be thanked for her service and put into retirement – as many times as she turns up.

Cinderella struggles with too little money, too much housework and childcare, and finds it hard to make inroads at the networking ball. Women returning to work after maternity leave or balancing a demanding family life need to ask for support both at home and at work and not accept the brunt of domesticity or their career being derailed.

Another three Archetypes represent the female superpowers that enable us to rise above the worriers and the ambushers:

Miss Moneypenny (wo)mans the front desk of your mind, is your day-to-day manager, critical thinker and conscious thought processes. She and the Librarian, who works in mysterious ways in the subconscious recesses of your mind to access unknown information and send messages through intuition and creative thoughts, can co-ordinate the female ability to multi-task, time-manage and balance the impossible.

The Mentor is an important and under-used resource in most female workplaces. While men often have access to institutional mentoring – drinks with the lads, socialising on the golf course – women often feel the lack of role models and support networks. We need to find those experienced guides who can sponsor and encourage other woman to become…

The Hero is the woman has overcome her challenges to achieve her goals, and continues to expand her influence and add to the sum of respect for all women. In a nice virtuous circle, a Hero can become a Mentor to encourage other women onwards.

Being aware of these Women Archetypes and the ways in which they can undermine our confidence, surreptitiously ambush us even when things feel like they’re going well, or enable us to focus and manage our multi-faceted responsibilities, makes it easier to manage our tendencies to negativity and self-doubt.

You can download a poster of all 10 of them here to keep in sight and therefore in mind.

Lucy McCarraher is the founder and CEO of Rethink Press, Publish Mentor of Dent Global and the Key Person of Influence programme and Founder of the Business Book Awards. She is the author of 12 books, the latest of which is A Book of One’s Own – a manifesto for women to share their experience and make a difference.

You can find out more information about Lucy here. You can connect with Lucy McCarraher on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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