Own Your Space – a female empowerment book review

I’m always searching for South African women to inspire. I don’t think we have enough female voices in our business and tech spaces empowering others and uplifting the rest of the gender. So when I heard about Own Your Space, a new book co-authored by two South African women, I got excited.

Lori Milner is the mastermind behind Beyond the Dress, an agency that specialises in female driven events aimed at empowering female employees and attendees. She partnered up with Nadia Bilchik, a CNN editorial producer and communications expert, to author Own Your Space – Toolkit for the working woman.

 I desperately wanted to get my hands on the book. But it was launching on 4 March at a schmancy breakfast and there was no way I was going to be able to sneak out the office. After some wheeling and dealing two weeks prior to launch I was able to get an embargoed copy of some of the chapters. Specifically the following:

  • Chapter 2: Own your Physical Space
  • Chapter 5: Own your Time
  • Chapter 7: Own your decisions, successes, failures and finance
  • Chapter 8: Own your Ask

Milner and Bilchik share views, tips and thoughts in each chapter but they’ve also tapped in to their network of successful South African women to share insights and views as well. It makes for a remarkably thought provoking book.

own your space

When I opened it up I was worried though. My first chapter started with discussions about physical appearances and “dressing for success”. One of the reasons I never finished Jen Su’s From Z to A lister because I thought it was shallow and unhelpful. Su spent a considerable time harping on about appearance and basically ass kissing to get ahead. As someone who works rather hard at putting out quality content and building my own reputation as a credible professional in my field – I found some of Su’s suggestions rather shallow and a bit silly. I was immediately fearful that Own Your Space would go in a similar direction. I was wrong.

A lot of women hang back because they are worried about what others will say about them, or that they will say something wrong. But 99% of the time, when they speak they say the most amazing things. So even if you feel concerned or anxious about how people will respond, take that chance and say what you have to say. ~ Shirley Zinn, CEO of Shirley Zinn Consulting

My favourite chapter in Own Your Space was, without a doubt, Own Your Time. I’ve really struggled lately with finding balance. I’m working extremely hard and have had little to no time to see my friends or family. If I’m not working I’m sleeping! It’s meant a lot of a negativity from various corners. If one more person says to me “work life balance” I might slap them. I readied myself for the cliche in this chapter but didn’t get it. The insights provided by other successful women really put my mind at ease. I’m not the only one sacrificing, I’m not the only one hussling. One of the key take aways from this chapter and this book was a comment made by Phumza Dyani. I’ve included the quote below. It was a bit wake up for me. I’m going to stop apologising for making my career a priority. I’m going to stop apologising for succeeding. I’m going to own both my time and my success!

The idea that you can have a balanced life is a fallacy. Throw it out the window. Consciously choose what the priority is for which phase of your life. ~ Phumza Dyani, Executive Head of Key Accounts at Vodacom.

own your space author
Lori Milner from Beyond the Dress.

I think Own your Space is the perfect book for any young woman looking to just get a step up on her career, personal life and, yes, even her dress sense. It was described as a toolkit in your handbag and even though I’ve only read 4 chapters I’m extremely excited to get my eyes to scan through the rest. It’s inspiring and it is a reminder that success in any field comes from just working hard.

Everyone is taught that they can have anything they want so long as they know exactly what they want, have a passion for it, work hard and focus. They are taught to persist because the difference between a winner and a loser is that the winner just keeps going – quitting is not an option.” ~ Margaret Hirsch, CEO of Hirsch’s

Own Your Space is available in all good book stores. Alternatively you can order your copy here. Lori Milner is the headline speaker at the next Girl Geek Dinner Johannesburg. Find out how to book your seat to the event here.

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