If you want to hone your business and leadership skills, books are essential. There are good and bad books out there, of course. But it’s hard not to notice that the list of good business books written by women is quite short. As in, there are just two business books written by women that have made an impact on how I think about work. The list of books that have made an impact on me that were written by men is far longer, and their books have been far more robust.
Why is this? Here are my hypotheses:
Why Women “Don’t Write” Business Books
Problem #1. The publishing world thinks women in business can only write about getting over fears and supporting each other, which perpetuates the idea that women are insecure and mean to one another in business. This is my biggest problem with business books written by women. They tend to focus on eradicating self-doubt and boosting other women instead of offering real advice for increasing sales, negotiating deals, and growing your business. Just look at the titles on Amazon’s list of the top business books written by women.
This is the biggest problem, as far as I am concerned. By focusing on books like this, publishers perpetuate the idea that women in business are just overly emotional and struggle to get beyond the minutiae of navigating work relationships.
Problem #2. Business books that women do write are less likely to get the recognition that any old business book written by a man is likely to get. Interviews with top business book authors play out much like a Hollywood red carpet event. Men are asked serious questions about their book, skills, and advice, while women are asked about how they handle working with a family or managing emotions in the workplace. This is the “How does she do it?” problem—the idea that women can’t manage work and a family.
The double standard is real. Women are less likely to be viewed as leaders, but that doesn’t mean women are less effective as leaders.
Problem #3. It’s still “early” in the timeline of women being viewed as leaders in the workplace. Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936, effectively kicking off the business book industry. Games Your Mother Never Taught You by Betty Lehan Harragan was published in 1977, which means men had a 41-year head start on women. Ladies, we’ve got 41 years to catch up on.
Fortunately women are catching up, and lately there are more business books being published lately that support all genders in a variety of business roles, written by women.
10 Good Business Books Written by Women
While there are still fewer business books written by women than those written by men, here are 10 (plus one bonus book) that I have read, skimmed and seen on a variety of must-read lists:
- Games Your Mother Never Taught You by Betty Lehan Harragan was written in 1977. It has been updated a few times, but you should still run the advice through your current-technology filter.
- #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. This is a good, quick read for the edgy entrepreneur. Still has whiffs of “just be yourself” sassiness, but with real advice for businesspeople of all genders.
- Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel.
- Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold by Dr. Patti Fletcher (available for pre-order).
- Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. Since Kim’s co-author is a man, this book is sort of halfway on the list.
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. This is the book that introduced the concept of a growth mindset. Dweck focuses on a whole-life approach, not just business, but the principles are essential for business owners and leaders to know.
- Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra. This book includes planning tools to realign your business growth strategy and tips you can implement immediately.
- Leading from the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch. From the mindset of Marines, this book focuses on real strategies to lead your team and career.
- Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures by Jennifer Romolini. This book is on my reading list for 2018. As someone who’s had a non-traditional career path, I have had to learn to embrace the variety of experiences and knowledge I have gained along that path.
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. I haven’t read this cover to cover, only skimmed it. I know that it is a controversial book for some women, but it does offer solid, realistic advice and tips for those who want to climb a more standard corporate ladder.
- Bonus! Think Like A Negotiator by Eldonna Lewis Fernandez. As someone who spent a lot of years in sales, people underestimate the importance of negotiation skills. This book is a quick read that you can skim if you want to.
There are many other business books written by women in the marketplace, including some good ones and some ridiculous, self help–style books that I won’t name. But these 11 books should give you plenty to read for the next year that will help you grow as a business person and leader.