More: Many of the groups have tongue-in-cheek names, like SLUTS (Successful Ladies Under Stress), Brazen Hussies and Power Bitches. Do you think names like that undercut the significance of the networks?
P.M.: This all stems from a sense of fun. Obviously, all those terms are outdated and somewhat sexist. But by reappropriating them the women are acknowledging how they might be perceived from the outside, but turning that on its head.
More: In the groups you write about, the age range of members is from the 20s through the 70s, and the younger women often look to the older ones for mentoring. Did you find any examples of younger women helping older women?
P.M.: Yes, absolutely. A number of senior executives who started stiletto networks told me that they anticipated it being a mentoring relationship but they have been blown away by how much they got back in return, because the younger women bring to the table a deep knowledge of technology and different skills and mindsets. In one instance, a senior executive at a large media conglomerate was planning to do a rollout of a particular technology platform and a younger woman in her network, who worked at a tech startup, told her she thought she was choosing the wrong platform. She also helped her find the right alternative.
More: The book carries a message for professional women that it is OK to help one another and to relax with being a woman instead of trying to be one of the guys. Were you surprised when that theme emerged?
P.M.: You know, I was surprised by so many things in this story. I really didn’t have a thesis going in—this was all a discovery for me. But what I found, which is so refreshing, is that women and men were finally meeting in the middle and respecting each other. One of the tips that I give at the end of the book is, Networking is good, but you should also play with the boys. Women shouldn’t be hiding in a cul-de-sac of feminine support. Integration, not isolation, is the goal.