20 Books by Women Leaders You’ll Want to Add to Your Reading List
This past year has brought sweeping changes to our personal and work lives, has allowed us to take some much-needed time for reflection, and has shifted our view of the world. As we look forward, we are inspired by these 20 books written by inspiring women that have us laughing, crying, and envisioning a better and more equitable future.
These women have fought and overcome incredible challenges, have built businesses, created new systems and processes, have inspired movements; and they are paving the way for the next generation of founders, entrepreneurs and business owners. Find your next summer read in the list of books below — they’ve inspired us, we hope they’ll do the same for you.
Jackie Huba’s fourth book Fiercely You: Be Fabulous and Confident by Thinking Like a Drag Queen is a creative, playful approach to the serious problems that women face regarding confidence and risk taking. Drawing on her own experiences and interviews with the world’s top drag queens, Huba offers five “Keys to Fierce” that will help readers find the courage to ignore criticism and live the life they truly want to live every day — no wigs or stilettos required. Fiercely You has been endorsed by the most famous drag queen in the world, RuPaul.
In 2015, Arlan Hamilton was on food stamps and sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco airport, with nothing but an old laptop and a dream of breaking into the venture-capital business. She couldn’t understand why people starting companies all looked the same (white and male), and she wanted the chance to invest in the ideas and people who didn’t conform to this image of how a founder is supposed to look. Hamilton had no contacts or network in Silicon Valley, no background in finance — not even a college degree. What she did have was fierce determination and the will to succeed. As much as we wish it weren’t so, we still live in a world where being underrepresented often means being underestimated. But as someone who makes her living investing in high-potential founders who also happen to be female, LGBTQ, or people of color, Hamilton understands that being undervalued simply means that a big upside exists. Because even if you have to work twice as hard to get to the starting line, she says, once you are on a level playing field, you will sprint ahead.
Throughout her life, Elaine Welteroth has climbed the ranks of media and fashion, shattering ceilings along the way. In this riveting and timely memoir, the groundbreaking journalist unpacks lessons on race, identity, and success through her own journey, from navigating her way as the unstoppable child of a unlikely interracial marriage in small-town California to finding herself on the frontlines of a modern movement for the next generation of change makers.
Welteroth moves beyond the headlines and highlight reels to share the profound lessons and struggles of being a barrier-breaker across so many intersections. As a young boss and often the only black woman in the room, she’s had enough of the world telling her — and all women — they’re not enough. As she learns to rely on herself by looking both inward and upward, we’re ultimately reminded that we’re more than enough.
Jennifer S. LeBlanc
Women receive less than 2% of venture funding and make up 8% of VC partners, yet research shows that companies with female leaders and board members outperform all-male companies. Changing Tides brings together experienced female venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders who share their expertise and tactical guidance through a collection of essays. This book is intended as a resource for anyone wanting to win — or support a woman to win — at the heavily stacked entrepreneur and funding game.
Written by best-selling author Jennifer LeBlanc, Launching for Revenue breaks down a revenue-generating launch with a step-by-step method that has helped companies, startups and nonprofits see $1.5B in new revenue and funding. Based on the ground-breaking ThinkResults Launch Readiness Assessment, this method reveals how ready a company is to launch and isolates the biggest areas of risk. With this book as your guide, you’ll have a clear Launch Action Plan based on the 10 critical elements that can make or break your launch.
Terri Hanson Mead
Terri Mead is a Life Sciences IT Investor, Angel Investor and Author of Piloting Your Life. In Piloting Your Life, diverse women from around the world share their personal stories of learning, growing, and thriving through midlife to inspire you to explore and experiment. Terri Hanson Mead candidly shares her extensive research on happiness, sex, friendship, money, and health to help you discover and live your life. It’s time to throw off the chains of embarrassment and shatter the stereotypes for women in midlife.
Women of all ages will nod in recognition at the stories of thirteen diverse, mission driven professional women as they share their career obstacles and how they’ve overcome bias, stereotypes, and being passed over for raises and promotions. If you’ve ever wondered what a true firebrand is, you’ll find out in Mikaela Kiner’s powerful first book. Full of practical examples and easy to use checklists, Female Firebrands is an honest, modern guide for dealing with situations working women know all too well. Mikaela’s book addresses not only how to navigate #MeToo situations, but ways to address workplace challenges including privilege, pregnancy and parenting, and female rivalry — all without shaming or blaming.
Mid-career professional women will read this book and know they’re not alone — and women earlier in their careers can save years of heartache and frustration by learning what’s worked for women who came before them.
The best part? 5% of the profits from the sale of Female Firebrands will be donated to BEST — Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking.
Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
Leadership expert Sally Helgesen and bestselling leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith have trained thousands of high achievers — men and women — to reach even greater heights. Again, and again, they see that women face specific and different roadblocks from men as they advance in the workplace. In fact, the very habits that helped women early in their careers can hinder them as they move up. Simply put, what got you here won’t get you there . . . and you might not even realize your blind spots until it’s too late.
Caroline Criado Perez
Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.
Networking doesn’t have to feel like a sales-focused event where you’re using people to get ahead. Create meaningful connections, easily strike up genuine conversations, and dazzle people with your natural charm.
In Confident Introvert, Stephanie Thoma shows you the key steps you’ll need to take to unlock your potential and win at networking. Within these pages, you’ll discover strategies that go beyond collecting business cards to find your natural confidence and connect with anyone. Whether you’re looking to move ahead in your career or grow a company, Confident Introvert will galvanize you into action and pave a clear path for your networking success.
Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
From education to work to dating, this inspirational, honest and provocative book recognizes and celebrates the strides black women have already made, while providing practical advice for those who want to do the same and forge a better, visible future.
Illustrated with stories from best friends Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke’s own lives, and using interviews with dozens of the most successful black women in Britain — including BAFTA Award-winning director Amma Asante, British Vogue publisher Vanessa Kingori and Olympic gold medalist Denise Lewis — Slay in Your Lane is essential reading for a generation of black women inspired to find success in every area of their lives.
You may not have noticed, but the world around you is switching to subscriptions.
Have you changed your marketing practices to thrive in this new economy?
Subscribers expect different things from businesses than transactional customers. It’s up to you to deliver. This audiobook is a practical guide for marketers, start-up executives, customer success management professionals, and executives of businesses adopting or transitioning to a subscription-based model. Anne Janzer’s Subscription Marketing is one of the best marketing strategy audiobooks of all time, according to BookAuthority. Find out why.
From an inspiring voice in the movement for gender equality, a practical guide to achieving success through a new kind of leadership — rooted in purpose and activism for social change. We live in a time of unprecedented opportunity for women. Yet despite centuries of progress, true equality remains out of reach. What will it take to bring us to a tipping point?
To leadership expert and social entrepreneur Claudia Chan, the key is shifting to a “me for we” mindset, where individuals root their effort in a mission far bigger than personal success, and getting everyone — women and men — to work together for social change. By lifting others, we not only make the world better, but we can also discover our greatest meaning and achieve lasting fulfillment. In This Is How We Rise, Claudia encourages readers to join a new breed of leaders and become change makers for gender equality. Distilling wisdom and insights from her own personal and professional journey, she shares key lessons learned and offers a toolbox of thirteen foundational habits. Claudia shows how to define and develop your own purpose, vision, and pathway to becoming a thriving agent for good.
Whether you own your own business or are part of the corporate world, whether you’re at the top of your field or are just starting out in your career, you have the power to lead change and achieve extraordinary success in all areas of your life. This Is How We Rise will show you how to unleash it.
With over 11 million female-owned businesses in the US today, more women than ever are taking the reins to create their own success. Maybe you feel the pull to start a business but deep down you’re afraid that you don’t have what it takes. Maybe you have a great idea but wonder if you’re actually qualified to make it happen. Or maybe you want to expand your business, but you’re worried about how it will affect your family. If that’s you, it’s time to start thinking like a boss.
With plenty of inspiring true stories and actionable steps you can take — starting now — Thinking Like a Boss will help you turn your limiting beliefs into limitless opportunity.
This book will show you how to take your career to the next level, whether it’s overcoming your fear of asking for something or bridging a wage gap. Lydia has been there and come back more powerful than ever. Inspiring and encouraging, Lydia’s hard-won advice will help you walk into any room with the confidence of a leader and motivate others to find their voice as well. Get ready to embrace your natural strengths, map your career, and take ownership of your life.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Working women today are better educated and more well-qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key reason is confidence.
Combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition — with examples from their own lives and those of other successful women in politics, media, and business — Kay and Shipman go beyond admonishing women to “lean in.” Instead, they offer the inspiration and practical advice women need to close the gap and achieve the careers they want and deserve.
For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down.
Melinda’s unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention — from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world — and ourselves.
Writing with emotion, candor, and grace, she introduces us to remarkable women and shows the power of connecting with one another.
Susan Fowler was just 25 years old when her blog post describing the sexual harassment and retaliation she’d experienced at Uber riveted the nation. Whistleblower takes us deep inside this shockingly toxic workplace and reveals new details about the aftermath of the blog post, in which Fowler was investigated and followed, hacked and threatened, to the point that she feared for her life. But even as it illuminates how the deck is stacked in favor of the status quo, Fowler’s story serves as a crucial reminder that we can take our power back. Both moving personal narrative and rallying cry, Whistleblower urges us to be the heroes of our own stories and to keep fighting for a more just and equitable world.
Women Who Launch is filled with inspiring true stories of women activists, artists, and entrepreneurs who launched some of the most famous companies, brands, and organizations today and changed the world. It is at once a collection of biographies and a testament of female empowerment.
If you’re feeling stuck or trapped by other people’s expectations of what you can achieve, it’s time to stop playing small and start redefining what success can mean for you. It’s time to get that upgrade. Karen Arrington―founder of the Miss Black USA Pageant, creator of the Next Level Women’s Summit, and mentor to thousands of confident, successful young black women―is your guide to getting your next level life.
What are your top book picks this summer? Let us know in the comments section — we look forward to adding them to our reading list!