Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: "The Orange Line: A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life"

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book reviewed below. All opinions are my own.

In June I attended a panel discussion on "Lean In" where I met Jodi Ecker Detjen, who told me about a book she and two colleagues had just written, "The Orange Line: A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life." Jodi asked if I might review it on Busy Since Birth, and it took until now to find enough hours for me to string the time together to do so, but I'm really glad that I did.

The book came out two months after "Lean In," and even includes a reference to Sandberg's idea that women should not "leave before they leave," but other than that, I thought "The Orange Line" was a much better read and left me with more concrete advice, rather than a feeling of unease.

"The Orange Line" refers to Detjen, Waters and Watson's idea that there is a life to be lived where work and family can take on equal importance (as opposed to a career-dominant Green Line and a family-dominant Red Line). The book explains this concept and follows it up with a discussion of "The Feminine Filter," ideas that come together to create the ideal woman. This filter influences the decisions women make as they strive to "do it all, look good and be nice." Trying to maintain this ideal can cause women to sabotage their lives through self-sacrifice, lowered career expectations, and the avoidance of asking for what they need. The authors used both interviews and extensive research to see the filter at work, and then applied their re-framing techniques to various career phases: the "Green Start," Approaching Burnout, Family Matters, The Sabbatical, and Re-entry.

The book is designed so that you can read the chapter that is most applicable to your current career, but I read them all. For me, I didn't have too long in "The Green Start" phase, so I think I've had to combine that with the "Family Matters" section. I know there have been moments when I've approached burnout, too. The Sabbatical section had information I found relevant to my blogging pursuits, and the Re-entry was interesting for anyone who is looking for a new job, not just those who have been away from work for a while.

I found myself highlighting many different sections of the book as I read, particularly portions dealing with the need for perfection. I need to work on being comfortable with imperfection, and to work at noticing parts of my life where I might avoid risks to maintain the look of perfection. I liked the anecdotes from the different interviewees, but was disappointed by the lack of women in finance. I also thought that the context of some of the women's roles might have been helpful (multi-national corporation, law firm, non-profit, etc.). The book's format is repetitive, but if you read only the relevant sections, you risk missing out on specific examples that can resonate.

While I understand marketing the book towards women in order to differentiate it from other career books, I do think it had a lot of valuable advice for men as well, especially men who strive to live more balanced lives including time for their families. I think many men now feel pressure to excel in their careers but also find time to balance family responsibilities, and it's creating a need for perfection in their lives too. I think men also need the advice about starting second, or mid-life careers, and I hope they're not dissuaded from reading the book because of all of the feminine messaging.

The book reminded me of a time a few years ago, when we had to make a really tough daycare decision for Hannah. I still think back on that time and how hard the decision was. Had I had a few of the tools from The Orange Line, I might have been able to see more of the filters at play in my decision-making process, and maybe it wouldn't have been as difficult. I'll certainly be taking steps to embrace more of this thinking, particularly on my need for perfection and to ask for what I'm worth, in my life and career going-forward.


  1. Hi Cheryl - really enjoyed this review...I'm going to buy the book and read it...for my blog...I too was really uneasy and didnt like Lean In...and I just couldnt put my finger on it...it was unrealistic I thought! Glad there is an alternative out.

  2. I've heard about this book! I love this project. I too felt unease about the idea of "Leaning In" and can't wait to read an alternative vision.