Inside the “Stiletto Network”

At its core, Pamela Ryckman’s new book, “Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business,” is an inspiring tale of female friendships—the kinds that can lead to landmark business deals, supernova start-ups, and $1 billion IPOs. The kinds of catalytic relationships that were once the sole province of men. No longer.

Ryckman, a business reporter, spent years interviewing power brokers like Silicon Valley venture capitalist Heidi Roizen and Susan Lyne, CEO of AOL’s Brand Group (and former CEO of Gilt Group). Her discovery: Female connections — forged through women-only salons, dinners and networking groups (some with sardonic names like “Brazen Hussies,” and “S.L.U.T.S.: Successful Ladies Under Tremendous Stress”) — are playing a key role in the success of this new generation of business leaders. Here, she shares some secrets behind their success.

DailyWorth: I understand fashion was one of the catalysts to your reporting. Can you explain?

Pamela Ryckman: This book started with a gut feeling, a notion that I’d found something meaningful that was shaping women’s lives. It happened when I walked into a room of more than 50 high-powered women and saw that so many of them were just…. gorgeous! I’d never seen so many chic, on-trend outfits in a conference room. Many of my sources had talked about the pressure, in previous eras, to act and talk and dress like men. Their femininity was considered a detriment. So, I thought, what’s going on here?

What was going on?

After two years of research, I’ve realized that the outside is a reflection of what’s happening on the inside: women are becoming more confident and comfortable in the workplace. They’re not expressing their femininity in an unprofessional way, to be sure — it’s no showcase of knockers and knees — but now, fashion and femininity can be used as forms of self-expression. And, when used correctly, a strategic advantage.

And [these] women are coming together to unwind, debate, compare notes—and mine their collective intelligence to realize their dreams and champion their causes. They’re coming together to change the world.

Keep reading for more on why women are choosing “passion over balance.”


You also say these women “chose passion over balance.” What do you mean?

For me, it means that when you’re immersed in something truly meaningful, the other trappings (whatever they may be) just fall away. When you find things you’re passionate about, they bleed into every area of life. When I started researching and doing interviews for this book, it didn’t feel like work. I was talking to interesting, inspiring women about their lives, and this was something I really enjoyed. So the concept of “balance” in the traditional sense never applied. Because I was having fun, it wasn’t a stretch to take a call at 9 p.m. or read another four articles on the topic once my kids went to bed. No one was making me do it; I wanted to. It wasn’t like the book was invading my personal life. The book became part of my personal life. And it changed my life for the better. There was never any doubt. It was something I had to do.

It sounds effortless. Is that realistic?

Well, that said, I don’t pretend in any way to “have it all,” or whatever you want to call it. I pared back everything else in my life to make this work, and for the past two years I’ve done almost nothing outside writing this book and taking care of my family. I haven’t seen a movie in years, and I had to all but give up my other passions, like theatre and reading fiction.

Has that been difficult?

I miss them, as I miss my friends. But, just as when I had babies, when I started this book my priorities became suddenly, abundantly clear. I never felt plagued and I never longed for balance. What I was doing just felt right, and I knew this level of focus and absorption was temporary. Hopefully my old friends understand, and in the process of this book I’ve met new friends — women who are kind, giving, thoughtful, and smart. I feel blessed to have them all in my life now.

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