This blog was originally written for The Ladders.
Each year on March 8, we team together to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since the early 1900s, this 24-hour period honors the legacy of females and their impact on industry, family, entrepreneurialism, humanity and the world. There are many ways to pay tribute in your community—whether bringing your group of girls together for a dinner, donating to a female charity or doing what you can to be a better—and more inclusive—leader. One strategy is to read books recommended by ladies you admire—from C-level executives to entrepreneurs. Here, 14 books every female should read to strengthen her career, recommended by fellow powerhouses:
“I was told about this book by one of my university professors. I was asking him about management styles and how being new to the hospitality industry I was finding my way as a leader. My question to him was, what does it take to be a good leader? His answer was a suggestion to read this book. So I did! The idea is to catch the associate doing something right, that’s it. What a thought! So I don’t look for the mistake (those, unfortunately, stand out without much searching) but my energy is in searching for the smart ideas, initiatives, above and beyond actions and positive impact team members have and then recognizing them. I focus my attention on what makes my hotel an environment that fosters good ideas and initiatives. To me, when we do good we are inclined to do the same. It elevates the status quo.” —Laura Maldonado, General Manager at The Gates South Beach.
“Every woman should read what I refer to as the holy grail bible, “Women & Money” because as a driven career woman, it does not matter how tall you climb the ladder or how much money you make if you do not learn how to be responsible with money. I absolutely love Suze’s no-nonsense approach to the book, that knowledge over your finances leads to more power and control over your life as a whole. As someone who has always been a strong proponent of personal finance and women owning their destiny, this book is not only a huge eye-opener, it’s life-changing! I’ve actually even gifted it as a present to several close friends and family members.” —Heather Marianna, Creator of Beauty Kitchen.
“As a founder and leader, you will always be in positions where you have to negotiate – with vendors, teammates, leadership, investors, etc. Even on a personal note, you will have to negotiate with your partner or children. I loved reading this book because it gave me new tactics and strategies to employ as I negotiate contracts, agreements, term sheets, offers and I refer to it often to go back to the tips Chris gives in the book. Being a solid negotiator is a fundamental skill that all women should absolutely perfect.” —Ju Rhyu, Co-Founder and CEO, Hero Cosmetics
“The way you think greatly impacts your business. Mindset is key to what you define as success. This book made me think about how to be innovative as a company with a core purpose to reframe the way people look at something as simple as a shampoo that they view every day in their shower. Why is the shampoo the way it is and why hasn’t there been innovation? This book takes something and completely changes how we recognize what that thing is. It’s not about moving forward in some small way, it’s about inventing something with a novel improvement that will change the world.” —Kailey Bradt, Founder, and CEO, OWA Haircare, Inc.
“When we are first making our way into the horizons of a new career, the information around us is often overwhelming, the energy of meeting new people jolting, and the goals we often set can be daunting. In order to remain happy and inspired while navigating the career waters, we need to be free of negative stress. This book is valuable in how it helps you to release expectations of the pettiness around us that harm us. I learned to move on from the small things that I experienced that would normally annoy me to find more peace and success in my business, and personal life. I gained a great deal of insight into communicating with people just by helping myself through the tenants of this book. I highly recommend it for every woman.” —Linda Lauren, Psychic Medium, Color and Energy Expert.
“It describes the type of leadership that is necessary in order to achieve greatness. The key components of such greatness and why some companies make the leap from good to great is meticulously recounted in this book. This book helped me because it validated what I do each and every day and offered me great insight on how to continue to achieve that desired greatness.” —Jeannette Acevedo-Isenberg, Head of Schools, Downtown Doral Charter Schools.
“This book tells the story of Attila the Hun, best known as the ruler of the Huns and often a synonym for cruelty and barbarism. His talent was to take a group of very diverse people from all different walks of life and lead them to become the rulers of 5th century Europe. Amid a great deal of uncertainty, Attila the Hun’s wise leadership approach was an inspiration to me as I took a leap of faith and become a female entrepreneur and now a female CEO. The book highlights a team-first attitude that has always resonated with me as a female business leader.” — Bonnie Crater, Founder and CEO at Full Circle Insights.
“As a race car driver, I am always looking for the checkered flag, lazar-focused on the end goal. Pam’s book has taught me that winning is only the start of the journey for a leader. There is so much more to consider in business than the win. You need to recognize how you make people feel, accept the things you can control, and release those you cannot. She inspires me to be a leader in my own life and enjoy the journey.” —Leslie Jackson, Race Car Driver, Author and Speaker.
“Brene talks about how there is something that happens, then there is the story we make up about it. When we do this, we add our own thoughts, interpretations, and narratives. This can lead to adding stuff in that isn’t true. She encourages us to look at our own stories, embrace being vulnerable with our emotions and lean into the discomfort. If we embrace our willingness to own our stories and allow them to become part of us, we are no longer “hustling for worthiness.” —Ande Frazier, author and CEO of myWorth.
“This book is a must-read for every woman entrepreneur. I feel that so often, we are our own worst critic when we should be our biggest cheerleader. Burton’s book has helped me cultivate my mindset such that I’m intentional about attaining success, happiness and balance in my life, both on a personal and professional level. The lessons I’ve learned from this book get put to use every single day as I work my way through the challenges of bringing my vision to life.” —Lulu Cordero, CEO and Founder of Bombas Curls.
“This book is about having hard conversations, faster—which is critical for advancing your career–especially as a woman. The key premise is that our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. It was key to accelerating my career by asking for what I want. I also invest a significant amount of time working with our team, often having ‘fierce conversations’ to develop and empower them. I want my team to feel positive about their work, and often these straightforward conversations can provide the clarity needed to increase productivity and motivation.’ —Tasia Duske, CEO of Museum Hack.
“This was the first book I read in my early 20’s as I started my career and it changed my life. This book changes your perception on the ways to see the world, the way we view ourselves and how we selectively choose certain paths in our lives to further our growth and personal development albeit a painful road. It is a very powerful book for those looking for a deeper awareness, a more profound sense of clarity and a way to step up your game in their career through increasing self-confidence and connection to self-worth. Overall it’s a self-improvement book with very relevant messaging for those looking to design and create their lives with intention.” —Violette de Ayala, Founder and CEO of FemCity.
“First of all, Marie Forleo is a powerhouse of a businesswoman—her B-School has taught thousands of women how to level up their careers and companies, without having to get a standard MBA. In the book, Marie preaches the mantra she learned from her mother—everything is figureoutable,’ and what that translates to in life and business. No situation is ever hopeless, and with come creative thinking combined with the action you can make significant changes and ‘unstick’ yourself from situations you may feel trapped in. The book is a great motivator, and the examples she provides help put context to the larger concepts she presents.” —Kari DePhillips, CEO of The Content Factory and co-host of the Workationing podcast.
“We always think information is critical for good decision making, but this book points out that the vast majority of decisions we make each day actually ignore critical information. For example, we interview job candidates to collect information that ostensibly helps us make better hiring decisions. However, research shows that many hiring decisions are driven by an intuitive assessment of candidates in the first few minutes of the interview, well before objective information can be collected. As women, we face bias on a daily basis, but this doesn’t exclude us from unintentionally having a similar bias against other people, both men, and women.” —Fatma Collins, CEO, and co-founder of Ten Little.
“As a woman—especially a young professional woman—we are often told who to be, and how to act, and often let others decide our worth and our values. The constant need for perfection, fear of failure and the emotional toll of navigating a complex career environment created so much white noise in my head. I found myself adapting to who people wanted me to be; that could change with whomever my boss was at the moment. I think as women we often see ourselves as others see us and aren’t always able to define our own values system. This book is more than your typical self-help book—it’s an action-based approach to defining what your values are, how those values interact with others in times of stress and how to adapt to a situation without changing yourself. For me, it helped me define myself, my goals and therefore my career. It was a life-changer.” —Loni Freeman, Vice President of Human Resources for public relations agency, SSPR.
“Unfortunately, for many women — myself included — negotiating salary does not come naturally. Luckily, with research and practice, you can become a stronger and more confident negotiator in every aspect of your life. I really like Lee E. Miller and Jessica Miller’s book on negotiating because it has helped me understand the differences between how men and women approach the subject. For example, men expect the raise and ask for it, whereas women are more likely to keep their nose to the grindstone, hoping their hard work will be rewarded. Understanding these nuances has helped me confidently approach salary conversations with both genders. In addition, this book goes beyond negotiating in the workplace and explores topics such as buying or leasing a new car, buying or selling real estate, and even negotiation tactics to employ if you’re going through a divorce.” —Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume.
“Work-life balance is such a buzz phrase these days. The answer to the elusive work-life balance paradox is the number one topic brought up by working women at every conference I attend. And yet the consensus from panelists is always the same–it simply does not exist, at least not in the way it’s painted to be. I prefer the term work-life optimization because achieving absolute balance in all areas of life is really an impossible goal. Reading Essentialism was a defining moment in my career because it taught me how to declutter my life and work, and instead, focus on getting the highest possible results in the few areas that matter most. It’s a beautiful way to live, and has changed the way I optimize my time and work schedule more than any other book.” —Cherie Hoeger, co-founder of Saalt.
“There is an elegance and simplicity in the realization that at any given moment we’re either in a beautiful or suffering state. The Four Sacred Secrets is an important, groundbreaking thesis that promises to help us find our inner truths and live a life of greater fulfillment and connection. We should all live our lives, raise our families, and pursue our careers from a foundation of peace and happiness. Abundance will then flow accordingly.” —Leila Centner, co-founder of Centner Academy.
“Every woman should read this book because it is a true story of grit and determination. Barbara details her business development journey in an honest and relatable way showcasing that a business degree isn’t necessary to be successful. She is a smart, creative and determined woman that doesn’t bulk at a challenge. She faces the challenge head no matter how big it is, even if that challenge is Donald Trump. I’ve read this book a few times because each time it helps me become a stronger businesswoman. It helps solidify that there is no right or wrong way in how you create and run your business as long as it works for you and your company. To always think about the good of your employees and create a culture to be proud of and it’s ok to be unconventional when solving problems. The answer is not always the same for everyone.” —Amanda Savory, founder of Amanda Savory Events (ASE).
“As a white woman, there’s no denying that this book is uncomfortable to read. If you go into it already angry about the title then it’s not the one for you. For me, I see it as a vital discussion and Reni offers a powerful framework for acknowledging, discussing and dismantling racism. As we build global businesses and advancements in technology, which make our planet increasingly boundary-free, it is important to have topics like this brought to the forefront and properly addressed. This is the sort of book which, if we have the right attitude, encourages empathy and understanding with others. It’s the sort of book that can help us all to become closer.” —Anna Brightman, co-founder of UpCircle Beauty.
“This book is a profile of women from all walks of life that share a commonality based on the strength and beauty of creativity. Each of the subjects are a muse in the development of business and ourselves as individuals. There are some books you read once, and there are those few that serve as a manual and inspiration for those inevitable ups and downs in business and in life. In my own journey, this book has been a beautiful reminder and affirmation that my path, if it is my own, is always right.” —Terri Bryant, Founder of GUIDE BEAUTY.
“Every woman should read this book since women often struggle with earning their worth and asking for their value. This book gives great examples of women asking for money. The author is a coach and she uses her expertise to explain and encourage women to shift their mindset to earn and ask for their worth. This is something I struggled with early on in my career, but through experience, I now always ask for my value, but this book was another great reminder never to settle. We need to close the financial gap between the salaries of men and women and any tool to help women as they navigate this tricky subject is key.” —Ivy Slater, certified business coach.
“I thought all that was required of me in life and career would be to be a good person and do a great job. When I was getting ready to quit a director-level job I loved but had burned me out, I picked up Mohr’s book, searching for answers and getting ready to map out my next steps. I realized that my habit of waiting for permission and outside validation from others had significantly held back my career. Mohr’s book gave me a brave path forward for honoring my talents, accepting that failure is an inevitable part of success and stepping onto a larger stage with my ideas, all of which has helped me to make a difference in my industry.” —Christie Osborne, founder of Mountainside Media.
“After diving in and having a full understanding of the Life savers process, I implemented my version immediately and to say it’s been life-giving would be an understatement. I more than highly recommend this as a biz book you must read as a creative entrepreneur. I’m not a morning person and have clung to that statement for so long, but I’m now getting up early in the morning without an alarm and finding so much more joy in my day because of the time I’m actually gifting to myself in the mornings.” —Taylor Bradford, event designer and stylist for Sugar Creek Creative and business strategist for women.
“The lessons learned in this book can be applied to any type of business from small with only a few employees to large corporations. I learned ways to be proactive about working on some of the mistakes that I was making daily like ignoring office politics and big moves like not negotiating higher salaries. I’ve learned to value my worth but also train other women to push back on an offer and raise the bar. This book is full of some interesting stats but really direct career development specifically targeted at the ladies.” —Shannon Tarrant, founder of Wedding Venue Map.
“I listened to the rest of Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk in the driveway of my house on NPR, it was one of those life-changing moments for me, it was worth listening to the end. I then discovered her book. She spoke directly to me, I was in my early 30s, had a blooming career and recently was told by my doctor that if I wanted children, I should start now. I was given a diagnosis that relates to much pain, more surgeries and the possibilities of not getting pregnant the longer I wait. It was not news I was prepared to hear. I thought I had time, and then one day I was told otherwise. My mind was turmoil for the next six months. I don’t want to choose a career or being a mom. Then I read ‘Lean In.’ She weaves her career path to CFO of Facebook with navigating being a woman in the workplace, including being a mother. Those two things are not opposing. They can be symbiotic. I feel like after reading her book, she prepared me to be a mother and a business owner more than any other person in my life. She speaks candidly about the pain of seeing your child cry for the nanny vs mom, and the joys that come with living a fulfilled life whatever that looks like for you. She also speaks about the inequality that we put on ourselves including some surprising evidence to back it up. I have a successful career—and 11-month old twins.” —Mary Angelini, founder and lead Filmmaker of Key Moment Films.
“Every woman should read this book because Elaine’s story is incredibly inspiring and also comforting. I actually gave this book to all of my girlfriends for Christmas this year! She chronicles her entire career journey with all of its ups and downs, which makes readers feel less alone in their lows but also lifts them up to make sure their highs feel absolutely badass. Her book also addresses issues of racism that is important for all white women to read. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book and everyone needs to run out and purchase it right away.” —Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events.
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