THE CRITICAL DIFFERENCE between men and women, writes Natasha Josefowitz, is that men will and women hope , because that is what society expects. "When a man achieves something it is normal, expected," she writes. "When a woman achieves the same thing, it is extraordinary, unexpected. When a male colleague of mine recently published a book, his family and friends thought it was about time. Now that I am publishing this one, my family and friends find it absolutely wonderous. My colleague had planned to; I had hoped to."

The book Josefowitz has written is "Paths to Power: A Woman's Guide from First Job to Top Executive," published by Addison-Wesley. It is a breezy and trenchant guide to the corporate world, written by a woman who is an associate professor of management at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hamsphire. With example after example, she explains how women's attitues and social conditioning, as well as men's, inhibit the progress of women in the busines world.

Josefowitz is most intrigued by power and how corporate players use it -- or fail to. Power, to her, is forcefulness -- the ability to exercise control -- and effectiveness. The roadblocks to women's power come from within -- through socialization as to what good girls ought to be all the way to the current superwomen expectation -- and from within -- through unfair hiring and promotion practices and male sterotypes of what women should be.

"Authority," she writes, "or most women, has always been in the hands of others, first parents, then teachers. This is normal for both growing boys and girls. Once in school, however children find that status and authority shift to male figures. The books they read and the media they are exposed to all confirm this The teachers are women, the principals, men; the nurses are women, the doctors, men . . . Men are in charge; women at best merely help." The result of this kind of conditioning is that the adult woman in a corporation may feel uncomfortable with authority and the people she works for will most likely see her in a caring, assistant role, rather than a managing, executive role.

"I believe that the problem with authority is one of conviction," writes Josefowitz. "If you are convinced that whay yoy ask of a secretary, a colleague, or even a boss is legitimate, if you know it will benefit you and the organization . . . then you should be able to exert your authority with more ease. We feel powerless when we feel doubtful, no legitimate, unknowledgeable."

Women, she says, must assert themselves even though it is going to throw men off stride. "If you act as assertively as men do, you will be seen as aggressive, because men [and some women] are not accustomed to seeing women assert themselves. If you are submissive, compliant and dependent, they will assume that you lack leadership qualities, and therefore, managerial potential. When enough women consistently act with assertion, when enough men consistently become more aware, role expectations will begin to change."

From workers to supervisor, to manager, to executive, Josefowitz defines these corporate roles and how women can handle them. A popular theory nowadays is that women are failing as managers because they were not conditioned as children to be team players. Josefowitz describe those team rules (never go over the boss's head unless . . .) and many more. She describes how decisions in corporations are based on information passed through informal channels such as carpools, drinks after work and over lunches, as well as through formal memos and meetings.

"It is important for you to make a concerted effort to see your colleagues outside of working hours or during lunch," she writes. ". . . You do the asking, you intiate the interest, the contacrs. No, it's not easy, and you may shortly have to go home to feed the kids anyway, but do it."

She urges women to get away from routine, passive, assisting, service roles at work if they want to get ahead. "It is only when you do take tasks that are nonroutine and innovative that you will have a chance to gaining any recognition and respect for your competence." She tell women to be willing to take risks, to ask for more money for their projects, to be seen with the right people because that " is still one of the major sources of power and influence."

"It is up to us to overcome our socialization in order to help men overcome theirs," she writes. ". . . In most organizations, men are still in the positions of power, with the authority to offer or withhold opportunities. As long as most men se women as not promotable, it will be very difficult for women to convince them of the contray. What will convince them eventually is numbers. As more and more women attain higher-level positions, it will be easier for men to visualize women as executives and leaders."

Despite the Equal Pay Act and laws against sex discrimination in hiring and promotions, women still earn only 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This is at least partly because 80 percent of the working women are caught in dead-end clerical and service jobs, and because no one has ever given them the self-esteem and the confidence they need to do better.

Natasha Josefowitz is telling working women at all corportate levels that they can do better if they want to, and, what's more important, she is telling them now.