In fact, I couldn’t agree more with Sali Hughes’ pull quote on the cover – “Ideas, solutions, wisdom, kindness, and zero whining.” This Last is really important, because as a working class woman who made it into some of the top board rooms in the retail industry, Portas has had her fair share of fuckwittery and bias to face down, and while she doesn’t pull any punches in sharing it, she always does so with a good lesson and often a killer punchline attached.
I also like the way she acknowledges her ex-husband, life partner and home staff who provided her with the space and time to focus on her work whilst at work. The people who looked after her kids are clearly very important to her, and it’s appropriate in a book that argues for better acknowledgement of the labour exchange in retail that she should demonstrate those principles as an employer of child care, cleaning and household management professionals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given my own circumstances, my biggest takeaways are that it’s absolutely OK to walk away from work that others see as successful and set up independently; that the workplace really is tough for women (and especially working class women), and that it’s tougher the more old boys’ rooms you have to enter to do business. And, above all else what matters is being true to yourself and your values. Follow your gut instincts. Be kind, but take no s**t. “Work like a woman.”