New Novel ‘Smashers Synched’ Serves Up The Heroines That Women Are Hungry For

By Shaz Kahng

“Sure, there’s a push to get more talented women of color onto boards and into the C-suite, but you know what? Those women just aren’t out there.”

A former CEO made this statement to me recently and he concluded that companies are just filling slots with anyone they can find. My issue with his statement? It’s a fallacy. There are plenty of smart, capable women of color out there–they just need to be given consideration and be given an opportunity. Even as a multiple-time board director and CEO myself, when I told a high level executive recruiter I was seeking a public board seat he said, “Well, you certainly are aiming high.” I wonder, would this recruiter have said the same thing to a male executive with my experience and track record of success? My response to him was, “Better to aim high than too low.”

The notion that there is a dearth of talented BIPOC businesswomen is only reinforced in fiction books. Why is it that novels featuring successful women in business have characters that fall into two outdated stereotypes: a woman who has achieved much, but is a terrible leader who thrives on quashing the careers of other women; or a woman who has simply slept her way to the top spot. This view of female business leaders is antiquated and totally off the mark—I’ve known many amazing, brilliant, successful female leaders who have accomplished great things and who constantly look for ways to help other women and to lift them up. These are women who inspire others—both male and female—because they lead with skill and positivity. 

The lack of inspirational female business leaders in fiction prompted me to write my first novel, The Closer, which offers up a fresh, modern, and realistic take on women in business. The main character is an Asian American woman named Vivien Lee who becomes the first female CEO of a sports company. A secret society of professional women, called the Ceiling Smashers, are there to support her and help her succeed. A critical component in crafting the story was to show that throughout her difficult journey, Vivien did not resort to the repugnant tactics of her rivals and she was able to succeed with smarts, scruples, and style.

While The Closer follows Vivien on her journey, my second novel, Smashers Synched, follows the career highs and lows of the other Ceiling Smasher founders—Andi, Grace, and Sofia. Andi Andiamo is a private banker, mother of twins, and a woman of Mexican heritage. Grace King is a marketing whiz for a luxury apparel company who writes a book on branding and yearns to run a business. Sofia LaForte, a black woman, is a gifted financial news reporter angling to get her own show. 

In Smashers Synched I continue to explore issues that I experienced as a female business leader and as a woman of color. For example, Andi has a horrifying encounter with her boss who shows up in her hotel room and refuses to leave. Andi handles that maddening situation in a manner just like I did with a consulting colleague who would not leave my hotel room. Grace’s new boss steals her ideas and passes them off as his own, much like what happened to me in my first job as a research scientist. Sofia shares some troubles in her personal life with a Machiavellian co-worker who uses the information to sabotage Sofia’s career. I found myself in a comparable situation with a treacherous co-worker but was fortunate enough to get it resolved with the help of a male mentor.

In my books while I offer up a few unsavory male characters I also have many male characters who are admirable, honorable, and champions of women’s careers just as I have experienced in real life. Likewise, while there are many positive female characters in my writing there are also a few bad apples. I once had a horrible female boss who made coming into work just painful, but she inspired some of the more memorable scenes in my books–so even a bad boss is good for something! 

The main characters in Smashers Synched are accomplished women of color who use their brains, creativity, and skills to overcome any obstacles. The secret here? Many aspects of these heroic characters are based on real women (and some real men). I wanted to inject some reality into fiction and offer inspiring, positive female characters that could serve as heroines to readers. Readers are hungry for smart characters they can cheer for and characters they can learn from.

Who knows, maybe if more people read books with characters who are inspirational female business leaders they will wake up to the fact that these women actually do exist in real life. Yes, there are talented businesswomen of color to be found out there–you just need to open your eyes and, in some cases, your mind.

Shaz Kahng is a serial Board Director and CEO with a track record of achieving goals previously thought impossible. In her quest to become a CEO, Shaz has been a scientist, a consulting partner, an e-commerce expert, and a brand and marketing strategist. Over the course of her career she has encountered many unique and unbelievable business situations, some of which have made their way into her books. She is a graduate of Cornell University and The Wharton School. An adventurous spirit, Shaz is also a certified rescue SCUBA diver, certified skydiver, dancer, fitness enthusiast, golfer, and is studying Tae Kwon Do. She is the mother of twin girls and lives with her family in Connecticut.

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