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Machiavelli for Women

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Machiavelli for Women

Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace

Gallery Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Machiavelli offers timeless, clear-eyed advice for women in the modern workplace.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Bold
  • Concrete Examples


While other philosophers, such as Rousseau, wrote in soaring prose about the virtues of noble and civilized humanity, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote – 500 years ago – about politics and human treachery. Author Stacey Vanek Smith updates ruthless strategic advice from Machiavelli’s The Prince for women navigating the cutthroat landscape of the male-dominated workplace and seeking to defend or even expand their territory. She packs her book with practical, actionable guidance. Smith is candid about the obstacles women face and equally realistic about the best ways for women to fight past the barricades to survive and thrive while building a career they love.


Machiavelli wrote The Prince 500 years ago, but his sharp insights into people and power are useful today for working women.

Machiavelli, who sought to understand how princes get and maintain power, divided them into two categories: Those who inherit their kingdoms and those who acquire kingdoms through conquest. Those who inherit their power and place have a cushy life. Their subjects accept them. They have to be very bad at ruling to lose their positions. White men with college degrees are today’s “inheriting princes of the workplace.”

Working women are like Machiavelli’s “conquering princes.” Their place is more precarious, and their subordinates are more skeptical of their abilities. They rarely get to set the agenda, and companies often relegate them to support roles.

Women at work often find themselves in one of these negative scenarios:

  • “Cinderella Syndrome” – Cinderella’s stepmother – the boss – tells her she can go to the ball if she completes an impossible list of chores. Cinderella thinks she has a chance, but she doesn’t really, by design. Men achieve promotions based on their potential...

About the Author

Stacey Vanek Smith cohosts National Public Radio’s business and economics podcast The Indicator from Planet Money.

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