As you may have heard, First Daughter Ivanka Trump released her second book Tuesday, called Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success. The stated aim is to “change the narrative around women and work” — Trump points out that though 40% of U.S. households have a woman as the primary breadwinner, “we still say ‘working woman’ as if she were an anomaly.”
That is a noble goal, and I am happy to report that with this book, Trump has helped to level at least one playing field: Here is proof that a female CEO can write a business book that is just as bad — just as padded with bromides and widely-known examples and self-promotion and unexamined privilege and jargon — as one written by an overconfident male CEO.
There is one major reason why the book is important, of course. It’s that Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have suddenly become two of the most powerful people in the world. Increasingly they look like the winners of an internal White House struggle over access to the president — and yet, as John Oliver pointed out in this tirade, we know almost nothing about them.
We can learn a fair amount about Trump from these pages. Unfortunately for those of us looking for deep thinking or self-awareness from this administration, none of it is good. Here’s the TL;DR:
1. Ivanka loves to ‘quote’
It’s hard to overstate just how much Women Who Work reads like a slapdash term paper thrown together the night before. At least 50% of the book consists of quotes or paraphrasing from other people, some of them lasting for pages, many disguised as lists of checkpoints.
All your favorites are here, such as Steve Jobs (four mentions), Sheryl Sandberg (11 mentions) and Mark Twain (three mentions). Art of War author Sun Tzu shows up, as does the philosopher beloved by undergraduates everywhere, Friedrich Nietzsche.
(The Nietzsche quote in question, “Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius,” would be perfect if applied to Trump’s father; alas it is not.)
Trump seems oddly proud of the most basic sources, which seem to have enabled her to sprinkle the book with jargon:
2. Ivanka loves to promote
In an introduction written between the 2016 election and the inauguration, Trump says she’s stepping away from her fashion brand and from the Trump Organization as a whole. “Emotionally, this was not an easy decision to make,” she laments.
But as we’ve seen in the convoluted ethics conflicts of this administration, it’s not that simple; for example, she won three trademarks for her businesses in China after meeting with the Chinese president.
Likewise, the book easily counts as advertising for her interests, whether or not she’s currently profiting from them. The Trump Grill and Trump golf courses get plenty of shout-outs. And here she is promoting her new branding for Trump Hotels in language worthy of a brochure:
As for the main purpose of the book, changing the conversation around women and work, this just happens to tie in rather neatly with the Ivanka Trump brand.
She tells us she started her company as a reaction against “brands [who] portrayed the working woman as a one-dimensional, suit-clad caricature,” and doesn’t miss an opportunity to use the hashtag #WomenWhoWork.
As for her signature political issue, paid family leave, Ivanka doesn’t hesitate to tell us that she offers her employees eight weeks of paid leave at the birth of a child. It’s not the worst such policy in corporate America, and it’s far from the best.
She doesn’t mention the fact, however, that a former employee says Trump wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of paid leave when first approached. “Our team — the ones who created #WomenWhoWork and the ones who the hashtag really stood for — fought long and hard to get her to finally agree to eight weeks paid maternity leave,” Marissa Velez Kraxberger wrote on Facebook in October of last year.
But hey, at least Ivanka has stopped incorrectly claiming that the eight paid weeks policy applies to the Trump Organization as a whole. 2:37 PM 5/3/2017
3. She’s a lot like her dad …
She may look like the smarter, more calm Trump. But from the moment Ivanka uses the phrase “total disaster” to describe the majority of family-run businesses in America, it’s clear that the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
“I design and build iconic properties all over the world,” Ivanka says in her “extended job title” (one of the book’s few original ideas, that women should write business card-like descriptors that encompass their entire lives). She doesn’t design or build the properties herself, of course, but taking credit for the work of others is a fine Trump tradition.
She’s also way ahead of her dad when it comes to another Trump tradition: nepotism. A section on venture capital is basically an email interview with her brother-in-law. And then, during negotiations to turn the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., into a hotel, Ivanka casually suggests that her then-unborn daughter Arabella might run the property some day.
4. … but keeps him at a distance
Trump the father doesn’t make too many appearances in the book; when he does, he’s generically mentioned as a “great negotiator” or “great dealmaker.” Ivanka is much warmer toward her mother, Trump’s first wife Ivana, who gets the first paragraph in the acknowledgements. Donald Trump gets a single line.