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9 Influential Business Books by Women Leaders, Managers, & Founders

Executive Summary

This year, women surpassed men in the U.S. workforce, occupying 50.04% of jobs. But, women are still catching up to men in terms of representation in media, government, business, and more.

  • International Women's Day celebrates how far the world has come in granting rights to and eliminating discrimination of women.
  • As we continue to expand these efforts, providing a platform for women to share their stories and ideas will be crucial to maintaining and improving equality.
  • To understand how women see themselves as members of the workforce, read these 9 business books written by female leaders, managers, and founders.

Remember when the American colonies incited a revolution over representation?

You might not know this, but Abigail Adams had as much say in the development of the United State's ideals and values as her husband, John Adams. He frequently corresponded with her about the formation of the Declaration of Independence. Writing from the family farm in Braintree, she encouraged her husband to create a document that afforded women the same rights as men.

Since our nation's founding, women and men have shared a common interest in having their perspectives represented in government. While representation was a given for men, women were forced to conduct marches and stage demonstrations to gain recognition under the law, which didn't officially happen until 1920.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. It's is an opportunity for everyone to acknowledge the efforts nations across the globe are making to eliminate discrimination against women. A huge part of those efforts involves providing a platform that represents the experiences of women in their personal and professional lives.

Ms. representation in Business Books

As of March 2020, nine of the top 10 business books as ranked by the New York Times are products of male authors. Plus, according to the founder of the Business Books Awards, two-thirds of submitted nominees were men compared to just one-third from women.

Women have unique needs and challenges in the workplace, like each demographic segment. When the leading authorities on noteworthy manuscripts consistently position male voices above those of females, we alienate people from information that is specific and relevant to their situations.

If society doesn’t start accounting for variations in the male and female experience, we run the risk of losing out on a wealth of economic potential.

We’re currently dropping the ball in many aspects of female representation:

The numbers illustrate the powerful position women are in, alongside the obstacles in their way towards assuming that position.

Maybe you’re a manager trying to figure out how to connect with a female employee. Perhaps you’re the female employee who doesn’t feel like she fits into the corporate puzzle. Whether you’re a man who wants to understand the goals of women co-workers or you’re a woman navigating the complexities of leadership development when surrounded by male superiors, business would go smoother if we understood where each party was coming from.

In light of International Women’s Day, we compiled a round up of the top influential business books covering all aspects of leadership, management, and entrepreneurship with a female perspective.

How Women Choose a Life and Career They Love

Fearless and Free: How Smart Women Pivot and Re-Launch Their Careers

How many times have you visited that job description on LinkedIn and then closed the window thinking “no, they would never hire me”?

Women err on the side of safety, operating cautiously until we’ve examined every possible scenario that might end in failure. We may feel like frauds when we’re trying something new. Instead of being disruptive, women tend to be more disciplined. And we’re often not pivoting—because we’re stuck.

To foster a startup spirit and gain the confidence to take chances, read Wendy Sachs’ guide to success in all stages of your career. Sachs introduces a wide range of women who faced down fears, roadblocks, and failures to reinvent themselves through the disruptive methods used by Silicon Valley tech companies.

She teaches readers how to sell their story, capitalize their skills and expand them, as well as branding themselves without bragging - lessons that compile into a resource that O, The Oprah Magazine, called “pithy, invaluable guidance to women stymied in the workplace.”

Explore Fearless and Free to prepare for your next career move, new job in an unfamiliar industry, or small business launch.

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Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals

Rachel Hollis knows first-hand the weight labels put on women. When we define ourselves by the roles we play in others’ lives - wife, mother, daughter, or employee - we neglect who we are and what we want.

In a blunt manner reminiscent of an enlightened coach’s pregame football huddle, the bestselling author and founder of a multi-million-dollar media company challenges women to put themselves back in the driver’s seat of their dreams.

Her book identifies all of the excuses women use to avoid chasing their ideal life and delivers an alternative set of behaviors to adopt and skills to acquire to live up to their potential.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Hollis instructs readers on how to talk with confidence about themselves, their goals, and their business as well as how to overcome limiting beliefs and pursue relationships that will help them grow.

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Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and the Workplace

Single mom of three and tech company veteran, Marissa Orr, started a lecture series while working at Google to empower women in the workplace. She disagreed with the assumption that in order for women to succeed, they needed to become more like men.

Orr has studied influence and communication for over a decade and discovered that the most effective management style has a balance of authority and warmth. She cites research that proves that listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence are more important than directness when it comes to being influential and effective. However, these are traits correlated more highly among women. She questions why women aren’t teaching men to speak more like them than vice versa.

Orr’s Lean Out challenges conventional wisdom on women in the workplace and offers a new model of understanding what causes the gender gap.

If you feel like you have to change who you are and what you want to move up the corporate ladder, grab a copy of “Lean Out” and find out a new way forward for corporate America.

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The Confidence Effect: Every Woman's Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success

In a world where leadership positions are still dominated by men, it’s easy to blame corporate culture. But what if it’s the disparity in confidence levels between men and women that is a factor augmenting discrimination?  

Do you believe success and happiness belongs to the world’s richest, luckiest, thinnest, and smartest women?

Grace Killelea admits that none of those adjectives have ever described her, and they never will. But as a former senior vice president of a Fortune 50 company, founder of a premier leadership program for high-potential women, and survivor of morbid obesity, she has learned that the negative voices get you nowhere. Neither does simply “working hard enough” for what you want.

Confidence is an attitude, not an Excel sheet you can share with your boss or a business deal you can close. Based on her years of personal and professional experiences and several interviews with successful women including a combat pilot, authors, speakers, and media personalities, The Confidence Effect delivers shortcuts and provides readers with tools to help them connect their confidence to their competence.

Throughout the book, she walks readers through the 4 areas where confidence impacts success: relationships, reputation, results, and resilience.

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How Women Impact a Business’ Bottom Line

Winning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World's Most Powerful Consumers

Women are the world’s biggest consumer market and are responsible for the majority of consumer spending in the United States. But women customers often face sexism and gender stereotypes.

Bridget Brennan, in Winning Her Business, invites sales professionals to gain a deeper understanding of women customers and how to elevate women’s customer experience.

The strategies and examples provided in this book aim to help you and your organization improve the experience of women customers. But in applying these strategies, the customer experience is elevated for all—women and men.

You are in control of one of the most important factors that influence a buyer’s decision to do business with you: your customer’s experience.

Brennan’s Four Motivators Framework is a compilation of the factors Brennan has learned most influence women’s buying decisions, and they are feeling (1) connected; (2) inspired; (3) confident; and (4) appreciated. Throughout the book, Brennan uses examples from Allstate, Lexus, Sephora, and more to show how the framework enhances your women consumers’ experience and helps you develop effective strategies to reach women consumers.

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The X and Y of Buy: Sell More and Market Better by Knowing How the Sexes Shop

The brains of women and men filter information differently. So, why do we sell to the two genders in the same ways?

Veteran branding, marketing, and salesperson Elizabeth Pace has been evaluating male and female purchasing patterns for years. Through her research, she has discovered the neuroscience behind the distinct stimuli that cause men and women to buy products and services.

Learn the benefits of GenderCycle Selling, which addresses gender differences and targets marketing tactics to connect with male or female audiences.

A witty read with a dose of humor and a ton of deep insight, The X and Y of Buy uncovers the thought processes and emotions driving men and women and how salespeople can more effectively increase revenue and sales success with an enlightened and nuanced understanding of the genders.

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How Women Entrepreneurs Achieve Work-Life Balance

Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family

If you wonder how you can or even how you are affording the costs of raising a child, consider the tips outlined in this book.

National money columnist and mom of two, Kimberly Palmer uses stories, checklists, action steps, and planning tools to help women navigate the financially challenging career/parenting years.

It’s not always wise to let the seemingly insurmountable cost of children guide decisions around your career, budget, and family. Instead, focus on strategies for spending, investing, and saving while safeguarding your earning potential. By exploring the experiences of moms who are self-employed, full-time, and freelance, you will get ideas and inspiration for building a life of financial freedom for yourself and your family.

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Venture Mom: From Idea to Income in Just 12 Weeks

Brought to you from the women who created VentureMom.com, Venture Mom is a book that helps moms turn an idea into an enterprise.

Part self-help, part full-fledged system, Holly Hurd knocks down the excuses moms give to avoid launching a business in Venture Mom, and designs a 12-step plan for getting started today.

You’re likely sitting on a profitable venture. The only thing standing between you and a fulfilling business is inaction. Learn how to pinpoint the activities you’re already doing that could be transitioned into a business, and get the resources you need to build an audience of prospective buyers.

No business plan, no start-up capital, no babysitter . . . no problem. Go from idea to income, from mom to venture mom, in only 12 weeks with this book.

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What Women Do to Increase Their Promotion Odds

Your Own Terms: A Woman's Guide to Taking Charge of Any Negotiation

The rules of engagement in negotiation aren’t the same for men and women. Negotiation expert, Yasmin Davidds has seen the mistakes women make at the discussion table, and she has experimented with tactics to avoid those mistakes.

Your Own Terms covers the stories of women who have come out of negotiations on top without compromising their positions.

By eliminating self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors, finding your unique negotiation style, and implementing a few practical exercises, you can use the advice from Your Own Terms to control how others perceive you and negotiate for what you believe in.

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Who Says It's a Man's World: The Girls' Guide to Corporate Domination

There are so few women that make it to the top of the corporate ladder. If you could have lunch with one of them, wouldn’t you ask them how they managed to get there?

Emily Bennington draws from the experiences of former McDonald’s president Jan Fields, JetBlue cofounder Ann Rhoades, and fashion designer Liz Lange to reveal the ways women can enhance their reputations and become more promotable.

From taking steps to develop yourself personally and building powerful social skills to becoming a more effective employee and merging productive teams, Who Says It’s a Man’s World empowers women to be the cream of the corporate crop. Create a success profile and determine your current promotability levels through a one-of-a-kind assessment in this undeniable resource for females with managerial goals.

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Stiletto Network: Inside the Women's Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business

Professional women’s groups are on the rise, and they’re changing the way women approach work.

“Stiletto Networks aren’t about titles, and you don’t need power or wealth to create one. Stiletto Networks are about trying to make your own personal dent in the world.”

A counterculture to the “boy’s clubs” of corporate America, the Stiletto Network investigates girl’s clubs, how they’re different, and why they’re important to growing women leaders in businesses of any shape and size

What author Pamela Ryckman calls the “new girl’s network,” serves as a support group for industry mavens and trailblazing entrepreneurs who bypass traditional means through a trusted friendships with women who understand their plights.

By crowdsourcing their knowledge and experiences, women are leveraging their all-female networks to achieve their goals and fast track success in the business world.

Ryckman’s book is a love story as much as it is a business story, documenting tales of female relationships that compound at exponential rates and lead to big breaks for all who participate.

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