‘Women in business’ is hardly a new term. In fact, many would argue it’s a slightly redundant one. After all, it’s 2018 – shouldn’t books written by women integrate seamlessly into the business sections? Is an author’s gender even relevant to the books we read?
When it comes to business books, I beg to differ. There’s undoubtedly been great strides by women in the workplace, yet the language of these titles can still feel very male-orientated.
A few months ago, I took on the task of reviewing the best books for new entrepreneurs, and in my search was overwhelmed by the staggering ratio of books written by men in this sphere compared to women. Whilst I did discover some gems, they were few and far between. Indeed, as I look at Amazon’s business books bestseller list, only three of the top 20 business books are authored by females.
Alison Jones, book publisher and host of The Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast has also found this shortage to be apparent in her work. “I’ve been investigating why so few business books are written by women for some time now, and it’s complicated,” explains Jones.
“Many businesswomen have more pressing domestic demands on their time and feel guilty if they take time out from their families to write. Whilst imposter syndrome is a fact of life for most authors, women also seem more prone to it.”
There’s no doubt the male-authored books I discovered still made a great read, but they lacked many aspects of business that are important to women. Yes, we are all about progression and leadership – but what about alternative careers, passion projects, maternity leave, flexible working, working from home, juggling motherhood, dealing with male-dominated workplaces and making yourself heard?
With that in mind, I took on the challenge to discover the best business books written by women: those that go beyond the traditional sphere and provide a toolkit to what working women today are looking for. From finding your purpose in life to maximising your maternity leave, to rethinking how to be a female boss, here are my top 10 business books for females.
The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon: £18.99, Hodder & Stoughton
As someone who juggles several different freelance roles, it was incredibly refreshing to finally see a business book defining this type of career, as opposed to rising the ranks in the workplace. Gannon explores the rise of “multi-hyphen” career women: those who wear many hats, who devote evenings and weekends to passion projects, and who don’t feel the need to leave their full-time job (which, contrary to popular belief, they actually quite like) to suddenly make it big.
Indeed, this is pretty much the opposite of the ‘how to make your first million’-type books, as she explores the concept of what we want success to look like, how to navigate success, discussing flexible working with your employer, and why it’s perfectly OK if what you love to do doesn’t bring in the big bucks. Littered with case studies, we hear from real people rather than business tycoons: a full-time paramedic who runs her blog on the side, and a hospice counsellor who’s also a baker. A must-read for women who love what they do and don’t want to define themselves by one role.
The Multi-Hyphen Method: Work less, create more, and design a career that works for you
The Working Woman’s Handbook by Phoebe Lovatt: £14.99, Prestell
The Working Woman’s Handbook is one of those books that I’ll be delving into time and time again. Rather than reading it cover to cover, it’s easy to flick through the dedicated sections as and when you need inspiration. From figuring out your work style (freelance or employed?) to pitching, managing a budget and boosting productivity, each section comes with practical exercises to complete. Very few businesses talk about money outside the aspirational sense, so I was a massive fan of the prompts about creating a budget, savings and coming up with an hourly rate. There’s no business jargon here (in fact, there’s even a handy table to help you decode it in daily life!), and each page is crammed with value.
The Working Woman’s Handbook: Ideas, Insights, and Inspiration for a Successful Creative Career
Purpose: Find Your Truth and Embrace Your Calling by Jessica Huie: £12.99, Hay House
Part autobiography, part inspirational self-help book, Purpose promises to help you “find your truth and embrace your calling”. If I’m honest, I began reading with a healthy dose of scepticism (the title seemed a little too spiritual for my liking) but by the first chapter I was hooked (and admittedly already teary). Jessica documents her journey from teen mum struggling to make ends meet, to an extremely successful entrepreneur who advised the prime minister and worked with every celebrity around. Yet it’s not a simple rags to riches tale; Jessica reveals her struggle to find her true calling and purpose, with ample time to reflect on what we actually want out of our careers. If you need a bit of a kick to figure out what you want to do with your life, this one’s for you.
Purpose: Find Your Truth and Embrace Your Calling
Mumboss by Vicki Psarias: £13.99, Piatkus
Award-winning blogger Vicki Psarias set up honestmum.com just weeks after giving birth, and hasn’t looked back since. Aimed at the modern parent, Vicki shares her advice on both motherhood (with sections on maternity leave, baby blues and confidence issues) and careers (focusing on returning to work, building an online business and making a name for yourself.) A chunk of the book is about the world of blogging, vlogging and freelancing (and why the nine-to-five is often not compatible with motherhood) – so it’s best suited for parents who are looking for a career change into the digital world and building a business around their families.
Mumboss: The Honest Mum’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving at Work and at Home
Secrets of Successful Sales by Alison Edgar: £14.99, Panoma Press
When asked to describe this book’s target audience, its author is quick to respond with: “Everyone!” As she explains, whether you’re rising the ranks or a budding entrepreneur, everything we do is built on a sale to an extent. In this lightweight paperback, Edgar outlines a simple yet highly effective method of sales based on 24 years of experience. The book is structured by four sections: the four pillars that underpin sales success (understanding customer behaviour, the sales process, strategy and confidence). Information is provided in an easy to digest step-by-step way, and the reader quickly warms to Edgar’s chatty and personal style of writing.
How to be Virtual Assistant by Catherine Gladwyn: £10, Catherine Gladwyn
Virtual assistant is one of the many roles that didn’t really exist 10 years ago. But now, in a digitally dominated era, many women are turning to creating their own virtual assistant business with the added benefit of working from home and choosing their own hours. Catherine Gladwyn set up her VA business out of frustration from battling stress and organising the numerous hospital appointments she needed to manage her chronic illness. Now a busy virtual assistant offering support to small businesses, Catherine offers an easy to read, snappy guide (at just over 130 pages, you can devour it in a hour or two) to establishing yourself in the marketplace. With tips on everything from networking to finding clients, setting rates and embracing competitors, it’s packed with words of wisdom and a must-read for anyone considering a career in the VA world.
How to be a Virtual Assistant: Start and run your own successful VA business
Strip Naked and Re-dress With Happiness by Maria Hocking: £10.99, Practical Inspiration
Much of navigating the business world as a female involves perseverance, confidence and determination. Whilst perhaps not a business book in the traditional sense, Strip Naked is all about overcoming and learning from adversity, which is something that all of us need, whether we’re in the boardroom or going out alone. Maria shares her emotional journey of battling alopecia, amongst other health challenges, and how these shaped her outlook and future career choices. In amongst her story are inspirational quotes, and prompts for us to rise from challenges, let go of negativity and find out what is truly important to us. An emotional and thought-provoking read.
Strip Naked and Re-dress with Happiness: How to survive and thrive through personal challenge
BETA: Quiet Girls Can Run the World by Rebecca Holman: £18.99, Hodder
BETA certainly stands out in the business section: its neon yellow and hot pink colour scheme paired with quirky chapter headings (such as “shoulder pads are bullshit” and “why your online self is trolling your IRL self”) make it clear that its target audience are young, career-focused women who are looking for something that truly speaks to their generation. The book’s title is a clever nod to the fact that so much of what we read about female leaders are of their “Alpha” characteristics (such as working late into the night, winning every argument and ruling with an iron fist). Its premise is to challenge this and urge us that “quiet girls can rule the world”.
The book’s merit goes far beyond its bright cover. It’s interesting and insightful, interspersing snippets of Holman’s own experience as an editor with nuggets of wisdom from relevant and celebrated females (such as Caitlin Moran and Emma Gannon), and practical tips on things like dealing with an Alpha boss and even sexism in the workplace. The perfect read for millennial women who want to break the mould.
Quiet Girls Can Run the World: BETA
A Good Time to be a Girl by Helena Morrissey: £14.99, William Collins
Former CEO Helena Morrissey is best known for founding the 30% Club: an important initiative which strives for gender equality across company boards and has already made a significant difference to many women. A Good Time to Be A Girl offers a new take on Sheryl Sandberg’s classic Lean In and declares that women should be reinventing the system rather than simply “leaning in” to an outdated one. Packed with inspirational insight into her own career (and managing life with nine children, no less), her conversations with young women she encounters on her journey, and important research, A Good Time To Be A Girl is a challenging read that will cause both men and women to re-evaluate the structure of their workplace.
A Good Time to be a Girl: don’t lean in, change the system
The Invisible Revolution by Nicola Huelin: £14.99, Practical Inspiration
Written by award-winning business coach Nicola Huelin, The Invisible Revolution centres on 14 pillars that all mums need to succeed. From finding your vision and personal values to marketing and persistence, it covers multiple important aspects of the business world. What’s truly great about this paperback is how it crams in so much useful information into an easy-to-read format that’s perfect for mum’s short on time. Should you not be able to devote hours to read cover to cover, The Invisible Revolution can be picked up and dipped into around a busy lifestyle. Its use of graphs, real-life mumpreneur stories and ‘next step’ prompts ensure that readers will put down the book ready to take action.
The Invisible Revolution: Join the empowered Mumpreneurs; inspiration, insights and practical advice to build a business you love
Verdict: Business books written by women
All books featured are worthy of the accolade but Emma Gannon’s The Multi-Hyphen Method is my top pick as a much-needed publication for so many of us who juggle multiple jobs and passions. For mums looking for a new career path, The Invisible Revolution should be top of your list, while Purpose by Jessica Huie is perfect for those who need inspiration and reflection.