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Former Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Kate White offers sage advice in her newest book.

Woman on Fire

by Holly Peterson | Manhattan magazine | October 29, 2012

Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, mystery novelist and now author of I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know tells us how to live life well in the boardroom and the bedroom.

I once met former Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown and she told me, “The greatest love in your life should be your work, not your man.”
I think that’s true, because you always have your work and you don’t necessarily always have your man. My mom and grandmother both worked, which was a little unusual for my generation. I just saw the sense of control and pleasure it brought them and knew that was what I wanted, too.

What made Cosmo so successful?
Understanding that women wanted to have success, but they wanted men, too. They—despite whatever lack of political correctness there is in saying this—wanted to know how to please men, with the idea that they’d be pleased, too.

Is it anti-strong-woman to be worried about pleasing a man?
Not at all. If you get too caught up in your work, in your own success, and he does, too, and you’re not spending time being the boss of your relationship—the caretaker and the agent provocateur—you’re going to end up disconnected, and the relationship is going to suffer because of it.

If you’re disconnected because you’re both stressed, which is a better cure—a great night of sex or a great meal out?
Well, they can both work, but men need sex far more than some women recognize. Most men want sex every day. And guys don’t often speak up and tell you that, due to their biology, they want it.

What’s the secret to happiness?
Finding a way to savor our success and really be the bossy pants of our personal lives, too—where we step back sometimes and say, “Is it a little too crazy? Is there anything I can throw overboard? Do I really need to send Christmas cards, or is that just driving me crazy and taking time away from my kids?”

How are women doing in the workplace?
There was a picture in The New York Times a few weeks back of the oval office, Obama with eight of his advisors—all of them men. So, though we’ve made advances, we still have a substantial way to go in terms of making inroads at the top, and helping companies find more ways to make it work for working parents. Not just working moms, but working parents.

There’s a story in my book about a woman at a liberal nonprofit organization, who told me the mothers there put away their coats on other floors so that when they leave at night to go home to their kids, they don’t draw attention to themselves. We have to create cultures that don’t make us feel like we can’t take care of our kids and still be successful.

How do you know when it’s time for a new job?
You have to be a relentless architect of your career. You have to manage your career—not just your job—and realize when it may be time to make the next move, or to reinvent yourself, to spell it out in your mind: “Maybe I want to be more entrepreneurial at this stage of my life.”

A good piece of advice from your book is: “Don’t say you’re busy.”
When we’re always saying “God, I’m so busy, I’m so busy!” it sort of ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I don’t mean that in a good way. But don’t be a bitch to stress. You’ve got to be the one controlling it.