Whisper Network was the July pick for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club and while I don’t particularly choose to read along with all of her recommendations this was one that jumped off the page, screaming that I needed to read it. Neither would I have classed myself as a feminist but after reading this work of fiction I actually begin to realise that there are varying degrees of feminism being fought out there today, and I include myself in that fight.
I use to work in the corporate world: the world of so-called ivory towers with glass windows. I am sure that someone out there makes an awful lot of money saying to clients that places with huge expanses of glass everywhere will make not only the building transparent but also the working environment we place ourselves into. From the outside looking in, it probably is the impression given, however, for anyone that has ever stepped into one of the colossal structures you will know that reality is often very different.
I have never been on the receiving end of sexual harassment so I will not even try to put myself into the shoes of those that have been abused, but I do feel this novel highlights more than just that. This is a book that screams out that equality has not yet made it into any business, not just those where you have to wear expensive suits and have gained a degree from a red-brick university or an ivory-league college.
The struggle for equal rights in the workplace still exists in this so-called modern world where anyone can achieve anything regardless of your background, what sex you are and how educated you have become. I would frequently apply for promotional roles, which I had become more than qualified for, and never even hear back that I had not been successful. Colleagues that had less experience and certainly lower qualifications were pommel-horsing over me at an alarming rate. When I asked for feedback from my line managers I would get the standard ‘you need more experience’, ‘different qualifications’ response but what no-one ever said was you don’t have the right genitalia to gain promotion.
Yet, regardless of how much people speak out, how many lawsuits are settled outside of court for gender bias because the business is wrong, we are still faced with an inequality that stretches far further than just the workplace.
Why have I just started to really reflect on my experiences in the modern workplace though? It was after I started reading Chandler Baker’s book. Deep down inside I probably understood what was happening, but sometimes everyone needs an ah-ha moment to switch the sensors on to high alert and that is what has happened with Whisper Network.
What is a Whisper Network?
“A whisper network is an informal chain of information passed privately between women. It is typically a list of powerful people in an industry alleged as being sexual harassers or abusers.”
Whisper Network: The Story
Sloane, Ardie, and Grace are successful lawyers for the well known Truviv Inc Corporation. Completely different in every way, over the years these three have become life-long friends all trying to stay ahead of their male counterparts.
“We wanted to be treated like men at work for the same reason that people
bought smartphones: it made life easier.” (Page 228)
They wanted to be seen in the same way that their male colleagues were; to replicate their success because they were good not because they had breasts.
There was just one problem: Ames Garrett, potential CEO. Over the years, each woman had developed a different relationship with this man, perhaps naively thinking that he would help to advance their careers in the right way but instead, he chose to use it as a blackmailing tool for getting ahead himself.
Then one fateful day everything changes.
The whispers have been building for a while. Everyone knows how he treats women but no-one is prepared to stand up to him, or are they?
When Grace finds herself sat on the toilet listening to two juniors talking about a BAD list, created by women in the workplace to call out those that have harassed them so others don’t become their prey, she wants to find out who is on it. But how to get her hands on a copy?
Sloane has contacts all over the city, so when this BAD list is brought to her attention she calls in a favour and within minutes her email is pinging, revealing the names of those who have for years, treated their female colleagues with a lack of respect.
Is his name on it? Should they add Ames if not? What are the consequences of this list going public?
Perhaps everything would have remained the same had it not been that Ames decided to target a new, younger colleague.
Their actions, however, have catastrophic consequences, some of which they would never have predicted. Secrets are exposed, friendships are ruined, marriages are on the brink of dissolving and yet the lies still keep on coming.
This may only be a work of fiction but it is based on thousands of daily experiences. It is a novel that will have females everywhere banding together to have their voices heard.
Would I recommend this book?
Books are used as an emotive tool and Whisper Network is one such novel that you will struggle to read without getting worked up. Regardless of how much you would like to bury your head in the sand, reading this will make you reflect on your workplace and how women are treated by society in general. Think about it, a man has a one-night stand and he gets a pat on the back, a woman has one and she is branded a slut or worse.
Equal opportunities and attitudes are not just for the workplace but should be something that modern-day society works tirelessly to achieve. I am not a feminist who stands on a soapbox demanding outcry for the way we are treated on occasion, but I am a woman that, since reading this, has realised that the world still does not spin on an equal axis.
It is the most thought-provoking book I have read in a long while, and I challenge anyone, male or female, to read it and not realise that we still have a distance to go in order to achieve indistinguishable rights for all, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.
It is without a doubt, one of my top reads of 2019.
Have you read Whisper Network? I would love suggestions of other books and novels that I should read with similar themes and look forward to hearing your recommendations.