ith many organizations like General Motors, Microsoft, IBM, and many others, the trend of women in leadership positions appears to be on the rise. In fact, there are more women in executive positions than at any point in history. Nevertheless, when you put that in context, it is still a very small percentage of women leading businesses.
Best Books on Women and Business: THE LIST
|1. Nickel and Dimed|
|2. Digital Goddess|
|3. Imagine It Forward|
|5. That’s What She Said|
|6. The Ambition Decisions|
|7. The Execution Factor|
|8. The Fix|
|9. Dear Madam President|
|10. You’re Not Lost|
|11. Brave, Not Perfect|
|12. Why Men Win at Work|
|13. How Women Rise|
|14. Be Fearless|
|15. The Memo|
|17. Girl, Stop Apologizing|
1. Nickel and Dimed | By Barbara Ehrenreich
Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job―any job―can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour?
To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly “unskilled,” that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.
Nickel and Dimed reveal low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity―a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich’s perspective and for a rare view of how “prosperity” looks from the bottom. You will never see anything―from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal―in quite the same way again.
2. Digital Goddess | By Victoria Montgomery Brown
With women leading only twenty-four Fortune 500 companies, female founders receiving only 2.2 percent of US venture capital, and the continued presence of sexual harassment and double standards, the gender gap continues to hinder the advancement of women in the professional world.
In Digital Goddess, Montgomery-Brown—founder of Big Think, a collection of experts across all fields and disciplines that are either at the top of their field or disrupting it, shares her story in an entertaining and educational light. Told from the unique, female entrepreneurial perspective that unpacks all the hurdles other female founders may face in their own journey to the top, Montgomery-Brown shares the real-world lessons she’s learned along the way, such as:
- Never lie to your investors, even when you just got arrested.
- Raising money is a poker game—learn how to play.
- The power and money still lie with men. Pretending it’s not that way, or being angry about it, won’t lead to success.
- Your relationship with your co-founder is like a second marriage, so forget about keeping the person out of the workplace.
- The more authentic you are, and the more fun you have, the better your experience will be.
This book is about dealing with the way things are, even when you don’t like it, and being yourself, even when it seems like a drawback. It’s about sucking it up, making the hard choices, and dealing with the consequences. It’s about being honest no matter what is going down. Victoria’s been called “the anti-Elizabeth Holmes,” for a good reason—unlike the ill-fated Theranos CEO, she’s transparent with her investors even when she fears they will walk away.
Digital Goddess is a story for entrepreneurial women at any stage of life who want to know what it actually takes to build a business in a world that’s not always fair, predictable, or politically correct.
3. Imagine It Forward | By Beth Comstock and Tahl Raz
Confronting change is incredibly hard, both organizationally and personally. People become resistant. They are afraid. Yet the pace of change in our world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former Vice-Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE.
Imagine It Forward is an inspiring, fresh, candid, and deeply personal book about how to grapple with the challenges to change we face every day. It is a different kind of narrative, a big picture book that combines Comstock’s personal story in leading change with vital lessons on overcoming the inevitable roadblocks. One of the most successful women in business, Comstock shares her own transformation story from introverted publicist to GE’s first woman Vice Chair, and her hard-won lessons in shifting GE, a 125-year-old American institution, toward a new digital future and a more innovative culture.
As the woman who initiated GE’s Ecomagination clean-energy and its (and NBC’s) digital transformations, Comstock challenged a global organization to not wait for perfection, but to seek out emerging trends, embrace smart risks, and test ideas boldly, and often. She shows how each one of us can become a “change-maker” by leading with imagination.
“Ideas are rarely the problem,” writes Comstock. “What holds all of us back, really—is fear. It’s the attachment to the old, to ‘What We Know.’
As Comstock makes clear, transforming the mindset and culture of a company is messy. There is no easy checklist. It is fraught with uncertainty, tension, and too often failure. It calls for the courage to defy convention, go around corporate gatekeepers when necessary, and reinvent what is possible.
For all those looking to spearhead change in their companies and careers, and reinvent “the way things are done,” Imagine It Forward masterfully points the way.
4. We | By Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel
Urgent and provocative, We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is “part self-help, part social theory, centered in the idea that instead of having it ‘all,’ women can live happier, better lives by becoming freer” (Glamour), from longtime friends Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel.
We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is an uplifting, timely, and practical manual for creating change in women’s lives, with nine universal principles that help you confront life’s inevitable emotional and spiritual challenges. It’s about transitioning from a me-first culture and imagining what a web-based world might look like.
In We, Anderson and Nadel ask why so many women are locked in cycles of depression, addiction, self-criticism, and even self-harm. How much more effective and powerful would we all be if we replaced our current patterns of competition, criticism, and comparison with collaboration, cooperation, and compassion?
Putting these values at the center of our lives allows each of us to be happier and more empowered, and to replace harmful habits with a more positive, peaceful, and rewarding way of being. We are a rallying cry for “every woman, everywhere on the planet. Open to any page. And there you will find a truth that can set you free” (Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom).
5. That’s What She Said | By Joanne Lipman
The world has changed in the wake of the #MeToo movement. What comes next? Going beyond the message of Lean In and The Confidence Code, Joanne Lippman, Gannett’s Chief Content Officer, offers solutions to help professionals solve gender gap issues and achieve parity at work in this inclusive and realistic handbook. Newly updated by the author to include a cheat sheet for taking positive action now, this timely, essential book also offers tools for having tough—but necessary—discussions.
Companies with more women in senior leadership perform better by virtually every financial measure, and women employees help boost creativity and can temper risky behavior—such as the financial gambles behind the 2008 economic collapse. Yet in the United States, ninety-five percent of Fortune 500 chief executives are men, and women hold only seventeen percent of seats on corporate boards. More men are reaching across the gender divide, genuinely trying to reinvent the culture and transform the way we work together. Despite these good intentions, fumbles, missteps, frustration, and misunderstanding continue to inflict real and lasting damage on women’s careers.
What can the Enron scandal teach us about the way men and women communicate professionally? How does brain circuitry help explain men’s fear of women’s emotions at work? Why did Kimberly Clark blindly have an all-male team of executives in charge of their Kotex tampon line? In That’s What She Said, veteran media executive Joanne Lipman raises these intriguing questions and more to find workable solutions that individual managers, organizations, and policymakers can employ to make work more equitable and rewarding for all professionals.
Filled with illuminating anecdotes, data from the most recent relevant studies, and stories from Lipman’s own journey to the top of a male-dominated industry, That’s What She Said is a book about success that persuasively shows why empowering women as true equals is an essential goal for us all—and offers a roadmap for getting there.
6. The Ambition Decisions | By Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace
Over the last sixty years, women’s lives have transformed radically from generation to generation. Without a template to follow–a way to peek into the future to catch a glimpse of what leaving this job or marrying that person might mean to us decades from now–women make important decisions blindly, groping for a way forward, winging it, and hoping it all works out.
As they faced unexpectedly fraught decisions about their own lives, journalists Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace found themselves wondering about the women they’d graduated alongside. What happened to these women who seemed set to reap the rewards of second-wave feminism, on the brink of taking over the world? Where did their ambition lead them?
So they tracked down their classmates and, over several hundred hours of interviews, gathered and mapped data about real women’s lives that has been missing from our conversations about women and the workplace. Whether you’re deciding if you should pass up a promotion in favor of more flex time, planning when to get pregnant, or wondering what the ramifications are of being the only person in your house whoever unloads the dishwasher, The Ambition Decisions is a guide to the changes that may seem arbitrary but are life-defining, by women who’ve been there.
Organized by theme, each chapter draws on real women’s stories of facing down crisis, transition, and decision-making to illustrate broader trends Schank and Wallace observed. Each chapter wraps up with a useful bulleted list of questions to consider and tips to integrate that will guide women of all ages along the way to finding purpose and passion in work and life.
7. The Execution Factor | By Kim Perell
8. The Fix | By Michelle P. King
For years, we’ve been telling women that in order to succeed at work, they have to change themselves first—lean in, negotiate like a man, don’t act too nice or you’ll never get the corner office. But after sixteen years working with major Fortune 500 companies as a gender equality expert, Michelle King has realized one simple truth—the tired advice of fixing women doesn’t fix anything.
The truth is that workplaces are gendered; they were designed by men for men. Because of this, most organizations unconsciously carry the idea of an “ideal worker,” typically a straight, white man who doesn’t have to juggle work and family commitments. Based on King’s research and exclusive interviews with major companies and thought leaders, The Fix reveals why denying the fact that women are held back just because they are women—what she calls gender denial—is the biggest obstacle holding women back at work and outlines the hidden sexism and invisible barriers women encounter at work every day. Women who speak up are seen as pushy. Women who ask for a raise are seen as difficult. Women who spend hours networking don’t get the same career benefits as men do. Because women don’t look like the ideal worker and can’t behave like the ideal worker, they are passed over for promotions, paid less, and pushed out of the workforce, not because they aren’t good enough, but because they aren’t men.
In this fascinating and empowering book, King outlines the invisible barriers that hold women back at all stages of their careers and provides readers with a clear set of takeaways to thrive despite the sexist workplace, as they fight for change from within. Gender equality is not about women, and it is not about men—it is about making workplaces work for everyone. Together, we can fix work, not women.
9. Dear Madam President | By Jennifer Palmieri
Framed as an empowering letter from former Hillary Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri to the first woman president, and by extension, to all women working to succeed in any field, Dear Madam President is filled with forward-thinking, practical advice for all women who are determined to seize control of their lives-from boardroom to the living room.
As a country, we haven’t wrapped our heads around what it should look like for a woman to be in the job of President. Our only models are men. While wildly disappointed by the outcome of the 2016 election, Palmieri argues that our feelings-confusion, love, hate, acceptance-can now open the country up to reimagining women in leadership roles. And that is what Palmieri takes on in this book-redefining expectations for women looking to lead and creating a blueprint for women candidates and leaders to follow. Dear Madam President will turn the results of the 2016 election into something incredibly empowering for graduates, future female leaders, and independent thinkers everywhere.
10. You’re Not Lost | By Maxie McCoy
If there’s one phrase women’s leadership expert Maxie McCoy hears over and over again in talking to young women, it’s “I’m so lost.” Not only do they doubt the direction their lives are going—they don’t even know where to start making changes. This book provides a straight shot of encouragement to change that.
You’re Not Lost is the manifesto for a generation of women who don’t have the self-confidence to trust their instincts and go for it. This compelling guide gets to the root of the problem, showing you how to drop the panic-inducing, big-picture obsession over “Where am I going with my life?” and instead shines a spotlight on the small yet impactful decisions that will take you from lost to found.
With step-by-step advice, thought-provoking exercises, and real-life stories from Maxie and other inspirational women who have been there and succeeded, this book is an energizing action plan for getting to the amazing career and life you deserve.
11. Brave, Not Perfect | By Reshma Saujani
Imagine if you lived without the fear of not being good enough. If you didn’t care how your life looked on Instagram. If you could let go of the guilt and stop beating yourself up for making human mistakes. Imagine if, in every decision you faced, you took the bolder path?
As women, too many of us feel crushed under the weight of our own expectations. We run ourselves ragged trying to please everyone, pass up opportunities that scare us and avoid rejection at all costs.
There’s a reason we act this way, Saujani says. As girls, we were taught to play it safe. Well-meaning parents and teachers praised us for being quiet and polite, urged us to be careful so we didn’t get hurt, and steered us to activities at which we could shine. As a result, we grew up to be women who are afraid to fail.
It’s time to stop letting our fears drown out our dreams and narrow our world, along with our chance at happiness.
By choosing bravery over perfection, we can find the power to claim our voice, to leave behind what makes us unhappy, and to go for the things we genuinely, passionately want. Perfection may set us on a path that feels safe, but bravery leads us to the one we’re authentically meant to follow. In Brave, Not Perfect, Saujani shares powerful insights and practices to help us let go of our need for perfection and make bravery a lifelong habit. By being brave, not perfect, we can all become the authors of our best and most joyful life.
12. Why Men Win at Work | By Gill Whitty-Collins
If women have equal leadership ability, why are they so under-represented at the top in business and society?
Why are we still living in a man’s world? And why do we accept it?
In this provocative book, Gill Whitty-Collins looks beyond the facts and figures on gender bias and uncovers the invisible discrimination that continues to sabotage us in the workplace and limits our shared success. Addressing both men and women and pulling no punches, she sets out the psychology of gender diversity from the perspective of real personal experience and shares her powerful insights on how to tackle the gender equality issue.
‘This book tells the inconvenient truth about the gender inequality issue, providing some really deep insights into what truly gets in the way of driving diversity – even in companies that are trying to do the right thing. It may be uncomfortable reading for some but crucial for driving the needed change to create a long-term advantage.’ – Paul Polman, Founder & Chair, Imagine and Ex CEO, Unilever
13. How Women Rise | By Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
14. Be Fearless | By Jean Case
Weaving together storytelling, practical tips, and inspiration, the book will teach you how to put the five fearless principles to work so that you too can spark the sorts of remarkable breakthroughs that can impact the world. Philanthropist, investor, and technology pioneer Jean Case bring to life the five Be Fearless principles common to the people and organizations that bring about transformational change.
When National Geographic Chairman Jean Case set out to investigate the core qualities of great change-makers, past and present, from inventors to revolutionaries, she found five surprising traits they all had in common. These weren’t wealth, privilege, or even genius. What all of these exceptional men and women shared was that they had chosen to make a “big bet,” take bold risks, learn from their failures, reach beyond their bubbles, and let urgency conquer fear.
Throughout Be Fearless, Jean vividly illustrates these principles through storytelling—from her own transformational life experiences to Jane Goodall’s remarkable breakthroughs in understanding and protecting chimpanzees, to celebrity chef José Andrés’ decision to be a “first responder” and take his kitchen to the sites of devastating hurricanes to feed the hungry, to Madame C.J. Walker’s vision to build a hair care empire that would employ thousands across the country, and more. She shares new insights to stories you might think you know—like Airbnb’s tale of starting from scratch to transform the hospitality industry, to John F. Kennedy’s history-making moonshot—and gems from changemakers you’ve never heard of. Be Fearless features a compelling foreword from Jane Goodall saying “there is no time in history when it has been more important to Be Fearless” and a new afterword with stories of people inspired to take action after reading the book.
15. The Memo | By Minda Harts
Most business books provide a one-size-fits-all approach to career advice that overlooks the unique barriers that women of color face. In The Memo, Minda Harts offers a much-needed career guide tailored specifically for women of color.
Drawing on knowledge gained from her past career as a fundraising consultant to top colleges across the country, Harts now brings her powerhouse entrepreneurial experience as CEO of The Memo to the page. With wit and candor, she acknowledges “ugly truths” that keep women of color from having a seat at the table in corporate America. Providing straight talk on how to navigate networking, office politics, and money, while showing how to make real change to the system, The Memo offers support and long-overdue advice on how women of color can succeed in their careers.
16. Powerful | By Patty McCord
When it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, Patty McCord says most companies have it all wrong. McCord helped create the unique and high-performing culture at Netflix, where she was chief talent officer. In her new book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, she shares what she learned there and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.
McCord advocates practicing radical honesty in the workplace, saying good-bye to employees who don’t fit the company’s emerging needs, and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans. McCord argues that the old standbys of corporate HR―annual performance reviews, retention plans, employee empowerment, and engagement programs―often end up being a colossal waste of time and resources. Her road-tested advice, offered with humor and irreverence, provides readers a different path for creating a culture of high performance and profitability.
Powerful will change how you think about work and the way a business should be run.
17. Girl, Stop Apologizing | By Rachel Hollis
Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds like a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself. Age Range: Adult.
18. Strut | By Samar Shera
Insightful and motivational, confident and spiritual, thought-provoking and funny, STRUT offers a voice of courage and inspiration that is unmistakably clear: a woman is powerful enough to redefine the life she lives and to become something vitally important to this new world—a leader of change.
Women are often taught they have little power. Samar Shera rejects that notion. As a Muslim woman, she discarded labels and overcame her darkest struggles in favor of profound self-awareness.
In STRUT, Samar offers a unique perspective on reconnecting with the powerful feminine force. Through her own personal experiences, Samar illustrates how this force is a part of the masculine and feminine balance within all of us, regardless of circumstance, and allows each woman to participate in something even greater than individual self-awareness.
Through simple and profound actions—such as overcoming limiting mind-sets, allowing for deep and transformative self-reflection, and reconnecting with your body—you have the power to change the trajectory of the entire global community.
19. WorkParty | By Jaclyn Johnson
In this “much-needed combo of real talk, confessions, and lessons learned along the way” (Chelsea Handler), Jaclyn Johnson—the founder and CEO behind Create & Cultivate, the fastest growing online platform for millennial businesswomen—offers a rallying cry for a new generation of women who are redefining the meaning of work on their own terms.
Jaclyn suffered a massive blow in her early twenties. She was on an upward career climb and confidently moved across the country for a job—and then, was abruptly let go. Attempting to turn that closed door into an open window, she launched a company with a trusted business partner. Soon after, she discovered said business partner had made detrimental decisions to the company without her knowledge. Before she knew it, she was in the throes of a brutal business partner break-up. She was only twenty-four.
Determined to bounce back, Jaclyn overhauled the mess that was her life and by the time she was in her early thirties, she had sold a company and launched the much-buzzed-about Create & Cultivate platform—and advised and invested in multiple million-dollar projects at the same time. So, how did she do it?
In WorkParty, Jaclyn shows how she turned distrust into determination, frustration into fuel, and heartache into hard work—and how you can, too.
With stories from leading female entrepreneurs including Christene Barberich (co-founder of Refinery29), Alli Webb, (creator of Drybar), Morgan Debaun (founder of Blavity), Jen Gotch of Ban. do, Rebecca Minkoff, and Kendra Scott, you will learn the tips and tricks from the best in the business while cultivating the passion and happiness you need to succeed. “This is the book you need to take your career to the next level—on your own terms” (Refinery29).
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Women and Business
The best books on women and business give the reader guidance on the advantages of women in business. Women in business create a diverse workforce, women excel at soft skills, women represent a huge economic power in consumer insight, among others advantages.
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.