Ivanka Trump's 'Women Who Work': What the Critics Are Saying

Reviews of the FIrst Daughter's book, 'Women Who Work,' have been scathing, but on Amazon half the commenters give it a five-star rating.
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Ivanka Trump released her new book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, on May 2 and the reviews have savaged it as “witless,” “vapid, “generic” and “anodyne.” The book is meant to offer career advice for working women, particularly young millennial women, on how to succeed in the business world and how to achieve a work-life balance.

Announced in June when her father, Donald Trump, had clinched the Republican nomination but still seemed like a long shot to be elected president, the book has come under criticism for possibly violating government ethics rules, since Ivanka is now a senior White House adviser. In response, she announced she would donate the advance and any royalties to the Ivanka M. Trump Charitable Fund and forego a publicity tour. But even that gesture has not saved her from some scathing reviews.

Take The New York Times, which called it “a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes” and “witlessly derivative, endlessly recapitulating the wisdom of other, canonical self-help and business books — by Stephen Covey, Simon Sinek, Shawn Achor, Adam Grant. (Profiting handsomely off the hard work of others appears to be a signature Trumpian trait.)”

Or the Washington Postwhose reviewer Ruth Marcus wrote, “If there is an original thought in the book, it is well-hidden among new-agey platitudes (“writing a personal mission statement is an incredibly valuable way to begin”) and repackaged wisdom: Nelson Mandela, Sheryl Sandberg, Jane Goodall, more Stephen Covey than anyone should have to reread, a woman who spiralizes vegetables.” She sums it up as “a parodic pastiche of the upper-middle-class-working-mom self-help genre.”

At NPR, Annalisa Quinn compared reading the book to “eating scented cotton balls.” Quinn adds, “Ostensibly a business guide for women, Women Who Work is a long simper of a book, full of advice so anodyne ("I believe that we each get one life and it's up to us to live it to the fullest"), you could almost scramble the sentences and come out with something just as coherent.”

The Huffington Post’s Emily Peck mocks Trump’s idea that her success is due to her hard work and not her privileged position as the daughter of a very rich man. Women who Work, she writes, “is a grab-bag of generic work-life advice for upper-middle-class white women who need to 'architect' (a verb that pops up a lot) their lives. But underneath that, and perhaps more remarkable, is Trump’s inability to truly recognize how her own privileged upbringing was key to her success.”

Fatima Goss Graves writing in U.S. News & World Report echoes the Huffington Post, focusing on the women left out of Trump’s vision. "The how-to-succeed model in Women Who Work overlooks the complexities of overlapping sex and race bias that drive lower pay and fewer opportunities for many women,” she writes, adding. “This can-do message sounds appealing and easy to accomplish. But millions of women are in no position to follow any of this advice.” 

The New Yorker has one of the cruelest headlines: “Ivanka Trump Wrote a Painfully Oblivious Book for Basically No One.” In the piece, Jia Tolentino also hits on the theme of Trump’s obliviousness to her privilege. “it feels downright perverse to watch her devote breathless attention to the self-actualization processes at work in the lives of wealthy women while studiously ignoring the political forces that shape even those lives,” Tolentino writes. She sums up the book as “mostly composed of artless jargon (‘All women benefit immeasurably by architecting their lives’) and inspirational quotes you might find by Googling ‘inspirational quotes.’”

Amazon reviews are more balanced, with 49 percent of the 96 reviews awarding it five stars and 47 percent awarding it one star (no middle ground here). The negative comments echo the reviews. The positive ones, like the top rated one from Sharyn, praise it as “a good helpful book for young women in an ever changing world.” Others called her “inspiration” and “role model.” Many of the positive comments also blame the negative reviews on the political (read liberal) leanings of the reviewers.

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