Journalist Joanne Lipman spent 22 years at the Wall Street Journal working her way from intern to deputy editor. But that was just one of many jobs that taught Lipman a lifetime of lessons to make it big in a (then) man’s world. We asked the author of That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) about Working Together for the lessons she learned the hard way.
Age 13, library clerk
Inspired by her older sisters’ job, a very young Lipman’s first job proper was a gig at the checkout counter at the local library. “I wanted the feeling of earning money and making my own keep,” she says, which brought her to a very 70s gig: “I manned the desk to check out cassette tapes.” But a difficult boss unfairly disliked her—“she thought I flirted with the boys,” she laughs—and taught tween Lipman a good lesson. “My dad used to always say, ‘Nobody said life was fair,’ which I learned here.”
Age 16, telemarketer
A weird sexist story to make you glad it’s 2018: “My neighbour ran this lawn service franchise, so he’d have teenaged girls call names in the phonebook and try to sell a free estimate.” The catch? She was only to ask for and speak to “the man of the house” (seriously). The lesson? “I was a shy kid, but this taught me to strike up a conversation with strangers. It cured me of intimidation—particularly by men.”
Age 18, reporting intern
But wait, it gets so much worse: “I was a college student interviewing for a magazine internship,” says Lipman. “I was wearing a long skirt with a slit, which I fixed as I sat down. The first words out of his mouth were ‘If you want the job, you’ll leave that open.’” These days, that perv would be reported, but in 1980, it was par for the course. “It’s the wrong lesson for this day and age, but I learned to ignore it and move on.” (She did get the job, for the record, and never saw this Mad Men-esque relic again.)
Age 30, deputy editor
Lipmad spent her whole lifetime dreaming of being a reporter. “I had never even thought about being anything but a reporter,” she explains. Then the paper head twisted her arm to become an editor, to which Lipman reluctantly agreed. The moral of this story, she says, is that “You have to keep an open mind and an adventurous spirit. You have to take risks.”
Age 45, magazine entrepreneur
Proving she learned the last lesson, Lipman at 45 was closing in hard on the top spot at the Wall Street Journal—a position never held by a woman. She could have held tight and waited it out, but she did not. “I was given the opportunity to leave and try something totally new.” From scratch, she created Conde Nast’s Portfolio, which ran until 2009, when the market crashed. She could see failure here, but she does not: “Risks don’t always pay off but there are always positive lessons to take away. Portfolio opened me to every opportunity I’ve had since,” she says.