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Looking for an inspiring read about successful women in business?
We've gathered recommendations from 14 professionals, including CEOs, founders, and content specialists, who shared their favorite books. From The Founder and the Force to The Making of a Manager, discover the top titles that celebrate and empower women in the business world.
The Founder and the Force
My favorite book about a successful woman in business is The Founder and the Force by Pamela Ryckman. This fascinating biography follows the monumental rise of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, told through the eyes of his last wife Joan.
While most accounts focus on Kroc’s entrepreneurial genius and savvy marketing skills, this book demonstrates how Joan had an immeasurable influence over her husband’s success. From helping to nurture his vision for McDonald's franchises across America to suggesting innovative advertising strategies and even understanding North American real estate law; Joan became a much relied-upon advisor and partner to Kroc from the beginning.
It’s refreshing to read about a powerful female executive who was ahead of her time in an era when men were typically celebrated as entrepreneurial moguls.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is a popular and influential book that explores the challenges and opportunities faced by women in the workplace.
Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, shares her personal experiences and provides practical advice for women aspiring to achieve their professional goals.
The book delves into topics such as leadership, negotiation, work-life balance, and overcoming gender biases. It has sparked important conversations about gender equality in the workplace and has been praised for its insightful perspective and empowering message.
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao is a memoir that recounts the author's experiences in the male-dominated tech industry and her groundbreaking gender discrimination lawsuit against a prominent venture capital firm.
Ellen Pao, a former investment partner and CEO in the tech industry, shares her personal journey and the challenges she faced as a woman of Asian descent working in Silicon Valley. The book highlights the systemic biases and inequalities prevalent in the tech industry and explores Pao's efforts to bring about change and promote diversity and inclusion.
Reset offers valuable insights into the barriers faced by women, particularly women of color, and serves as an inspiration for those seeking to challenge the status quo in the business world.
Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling
My favorite book about a successful woman in business is Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling: Women on the Top of the Corporate Ladder by Cynthia McReynolds. This book highlights stories of nine women who rose to success and faced adversity along their journey, such as ageism, lack of resources, and sexism. It provides great insight into how these women broke down barriers to become CEOs, CIOs, owners of small businesses, and more.
Additionally, it offers strategies for navigating corporate culture in order to gain leadership positions in businesses that are traditionally male-dominated. As a common example, the book features Joanne Smith—the first female CEO at sporting goods retailer East Coast Sports—who was appointed in her late 50s after decades of working for direct competitors. Her story demonstrates how determination, preparation, and perseverance translate into success at any stage of life.
Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and the Workplace
One book that really resonated with me is Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and the Workplace by Elissa Shevinsky. This book dives into the world of tech startups, shedding light on the unique challenges and triumphs of women in the business.
What struck me most about Elissa's journey is her resilience. She faced some tough odds, but never gave up. She was honest about her experiences, sharing the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. This candor was both refreshing and inspiring.
For you, whether you're in the tech industry or not, I think there's a lot to learn from Elissa's tenacity and courage. It's a book that encourages you to pursue your own path, regardless of the obstacles you might face. A definite must-read!
John White, MBA | Sales Manager & Golf Instructor
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
My favorite book about a successful woman in business is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. It provides an inspirational and highly unorthodox approach to success from the perspective of a woman who has achieved it herself.
The book encourages readers to embrace their own creative ideas fearlessly, instead of relying solely on conventional methods of achieving success. It espouses living with curiosity and passion, rather than simply striving for material rewards—a concept that many women in business often overlook.
By doing so, it motivates readers to take risks instead of playing it safe so they can realize their highest potential both personally and professionally.
Good Girl Complex
My recent favorite is Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy. It's a refreshing take on a young woman's journey in the business world. The story revolves around Mackenzie "Mac" Cabot, a rule-abiding people-pleaser who aspires to grow her internet business while juggling her parents' expectations and college life.
I particularly enjoy this book because it showcases the importance of venturing beyond one's comfort zone and pursuing a passion despite societal norms. It beautifully intertwines themes of business success, personal development, and romance, making it a captivating read for anyone interested in narratives about resilient women navigating the complexities of life and business.
The relatable characters and engaging plot make Good Girl Complex a must-read in my book collection!
Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave & Creative Life
My favorite book about successful women in business is Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave & Creative Life by Joy Mangano. Joy is the inventor of the Miracle Mop.
I didn't think I would like the book. I love rags-to-riches stories, especially true ones about women, but I wasn't attracted to this over-the-top woman with her big voice and her “attitude.”
As I read the book, as Joy told her story, I fell in love. In love with her, her story, with the ups and downs, and how she epitomizes so many of us. We want to start a business but don't know how...so we either fail and go home crying, or we don't do it at all.
Joy tells us in the book, after a story about almost losing her business, "For me, there isn't any difference between business & life. There isn't one 'business' Joy and one 'mom' Joy. There is only Joy. I operate under the same governing principles in all aspects of my life—I want to be a strong, kind, decent, person who is forceful but fair. I can't work any other way."
Yvonne Divita, Co-founder, Master Book Builders
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
A book by Brené Brown was given to me by a colleague, and I enjoyed it in a big way, especially the insights Brené shared about her own life and experiences. She is an extremely experienced professional with an interesting background and, even more, a ton of valuable insight on managing people to share.
Specifically, I read and loved Brené's Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
This is an excellent piece of literature by an extremely successful woman in business, and it provides a ton of insight. Now, I'm looking forward to reading more of her books!
Rachel Pederson's book "Unfiltered" resonates with me because it closely aligns with my personal journey and the issues I have faced. Her book addresses topics and challenges that I can relate to, making it a relatable and insightful read. It offers valuable perspectives and guidance that I find applicable to my own life and business, providing a sense of connection and understanding.
What draws me to this book is how it shatters the often-gloomy narrative around women and wealth and instead, uncovers the strategies that have allowed many women to achieve financial success.
Stanny's approach is both empirical and engaging. She interviews a diverse array of high-earning women, delves into their mindsets, habits, and strategies, and then presents these "secrets" in a way that's accessible and actionable for any reader. From risk-taking to negotiating, from setting financial goals to investing in oneself—each insight offers a valuable lesson on financial empowerment.
But what resonates most with me is that Stanny's book isn't just about making money—it's about fostering a healthier, more proactive relationship with money and success. She encourages women to step out of their comfort zones, take charge of their financial future, and most importantly, believe in their worth.
Just Desserts: The Unauthorized Biography of Martha Stewart
To me, the Internet and the rise of women like Martha Stewart taking their brands and turning them into empires was so inspiring for the 30-something me. I absorbed everything I could read about her. Just Desserts: The Unauthorized Biography of Martha Stewart was a fascinating read.
Martha's story of love, heartbreak, creativity, resilience, and doing things on her own terms was and still is inspiring. Younger women are more familiar with the hip Martha Stewart. I am one of the millions of seasoned businesswomen who got to see a trailblazing businesswoman who showed you how to be a successful author, host a successful TV cooking show, publish a successful cooking and decorating magazine, and launch a successful lifestyle website while making you feel at home.
Embrace the Power of You: Owning Your Identity at Work
I highly recommend Embrace the Power of You: Owning Your Identity at Work by Tricia Montalvo Timm. Tricia is a first-generation Latina who rose through the ranks of Silicon Valley to become a C-Suite executive, board director, and investor.
As a Latina and working mom, she always felt like she didn’t belong in corporate America and desperately tried to change the parts of herself that were different in order to fit in. After two decades of hiding and feeling exhausted, Tricia realized that if she wanted to feel like she truly belonged, she needed to accept herself first.
This book aims to reach all those who are struggling to belong—desperately trying to blend into the corporate landscape—and arm them with the tools and knowledge needed to get to the other side of their fear. Tricia chronicles her own journey, yet is inclusive to other groups that are forced to hide their identity in order to feel a sense of belonging in our mainstream society.
The Making of a Manager
One of my favorite books about a successful woman in business is The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo. This book is a valuable guide for anyone in a startup or managerial role, as it provides practical insights and advice on navigating the transition from individual contributor to manager.
Julie Zhuo shares her personal experiences and the challenges she faced while managing teams, offering valuable lessons and strategies for success. The book delves into topics such as building effective relationships, providing feedback, fostering a positive work culture, and overcoming common management challenges.
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