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Ascend: A Handbook for Ambitious Women | by Brianna Langley Henderson | Mar, 2024

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Some of you know, some of you don’t, but I’ve been writing my first non-fiction book over the last few months. And in honor of Women’s History Month, I thought I’d share a little about that journey, my research findings, and evolution of this project into something deeply personal and deeply important.

I first set out to explore the societal barriers that women seem to have internalized — deeply — over generations. Barriers like how, despite being a driving force in progress and innovation, ‘ambition’ as it relates to women has been so misconstrued and even penalized. We unpack what ‘confidence’ really means (spoiler: it’s not what you think), and why ‘leadership’ isn’t a concept that’s automatically associated with women in our society (although it should be).

I’m nothing if not a doer. So beyond philosophical ideas, I always want to offer practical strategies for reshaping perceptions. First, we must reframe the language surrounding ambition as a concept. By articulating aspirations in terms of impact and service rather than roles and titles, and by aligning goals with personal values, we can help redefine the overall narrative. Second, women must be taught to own their success unapologetically. For so long (perhaps all of human history) women have been taught to downplay achievements — it will take some serious retraining to reverse that curse for future generations.

I also suggest developing a personal philosophy of leadership, grounded in your individual values and experiences. This process is like curating a tailor-made mindset, weaving beliefs and aspirations into a unique intellectual wardrobe. I also advocate for seeking diverse role models to find inspiration beyond traditional norms and (you guessed it) offer some actionable ways to do that effectively.

From there, we spend the next few chapters focusing on the very real, external barriers women face in our modern workplaces (particularly, ambitious women).

We talk about how studies, including a revealing MIT study in 2022, shed light on a subtle yet significant gap in potential ratings, perpetuating gender biases that create barriers for women regardless of industry.

We dissect the ever-pervasive, ever-nauseating ‘Boys’ Club’ as a remnant of a bygone era, is a challenge modern society has outgrown. The call is not merely to break through barriers but to reshape the entire landscape for a more inclusive and equitable future.

And we dive into the world of overtly male-dominated industries and talk about ways women can negotiate for themselves, even in these environments. (By the way, why is self-negotiation so hard for us? We’ll get into that too.)

Then, we will get a little more personal and little closer to the heart. Everything from stigma around pregnancy and motherhood to workplace sexual harassment to the unique challenges that constantly loom over queer women looking to advance their careers.

It will get real and it will get raw, and we will look at practical ways to overcome these awful, insidious obstacles.

Eventually, we get to the meat and potatoes of why we do what we do everyday — which, of course, is to leave a better world for the ambitious women who come after us. What can we do today, actionably, that can truly contribute to that sacred calling?

Ultimately, this book, this project that has taken over my life lately, aims to inspire action. It’s a call to arms for women to be stubbornly unapologetically in the pursuit of their goals and dreams.

And I’m excited to announce that I’ve officially finished drafting the proposal and am ready to begin pitching the book. And I’m so ready to let this project land and bloom however it will in the world.

If any literary agents reading this think this project sounds like a fit for them, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at brilangley94@gmail.com.

Happy Women’s History Month. Let’s break barriers together!



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