If you are looking for the best business books for women to help you launch your career -or business- you have come to the right place.
I have read a ton of them while researching for my course.
This post will also include the best career books for women, and the best books for female founders (ie.: best entrepreneurship books for women).
So let’s start:
#11. Lean In
If “The Prince” should be in any list of books about power, then Lean In should be in any list of business or career books for women.
“Lean In” is the Godfath… Godmother of them all, and almost all other authors in this list mention Sheryl Sandberg, or quote her or some passages of this book.
When it comes to actual content, “Lean In” abounds on feminist-type of advice, somewhat at the detriment of practical advice. The reason why it’s more feminist and less practical is the reason why it doesn’t feature higher.
It’s also more suited for business women than female founders, since Sandberg seems more the type of woman who functions well within a structure, rather than in the chaos of creating that structure from scratch.
Quote: “Done is better than perfect.”
Now, here is a book from an entrepreneur, to female entrepreneurs.
I truly enjoyed Amoruso’s story because, in many ways, it was also my story. Not particularly enjoying being in someone else’s organization, struggling to fit in… And finally realizing that the only way out is finding and carving your own way.
If you’re a female entrepreneur who always felt at odds being a “business woman” in someone’s organization, then this is your book.
Similar to #GirlBoss, also:
- The Girl Code
- How to Be a Bawse (removed from the website)
Quote: “The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.”
#9. Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
Luckily for us, Lois Frankel didn’t just come up with a good title, but also wrote top-notch content.
In this career book for women, Frankel focuses on what many women are doing wrong to truly compete in a man’s world. Frankel describes 101 mindsets and behaviors that are holding women back, while providing practical advice on how to fix each one of them.
Personally, I find that in her quest to make women more assertive, Frankel’s advice might sometimes end up being “aggressive” instead of assertive.
But if you have enough emotional intelligence to tell the difference, then you are going to learn hugely from this book. I certainly have, and I took out a lot of wisdom for my own course.
Most of all, I liked her simple, yet genius insight of “be less of a girl, and more of a woman”.
Thus my choice of quote:
Quote: “Success comes not from acting more like a man, as some might lead you to believe, but by acting more like a woman instead of a girl”.
#8. Workplace Poker
Albeit not exclusively addressed to women, I had to sneak this one in here.
It’s one of the best books on career strategies I have read, and its advice applies to men as much as to women.
Quote: It may not seem fair or right. Shouldn’t doing an exceptional job be enough? Unfortunately it’s not.
#7. Secrets of Six Figure Women
This is both for female founders and career women, since Stanny does not focus on one or another, but simply goes after women who make more than six figures a year.
The book is a mix of self-help, personal finance advice, and business advice. Stanny interviews many successful women who each share personal details of their successes and struggles, ranging from career, to intimate relationships, to addictions. And while I am not usually a big fan of books structured as interviews, this a standout exception, as Stanny masterfully weaves the case studies within the frameworks of effective money management.
The only bit I didn’t like was the law of attraction. Luckily, it was just a short passage, and this is one of the best all-rounders on the mindsets of success, female empowerment, and financial abundance for women.
Quote: I’ve learned that I have to be the one responsible for my money. It has been painful to come to that.
But with that pain came pride, because I now feel I don’t have to depend on anyone. This money buys me freedom. I don’t need my husband. I could do just fine financially. But I want to be with him because I love him.
#6. The Confidence Code
How often have you heard that word?
Sometimes it feels like in the self-help industry, especially for men, everything can be fixed with more confidence.
Yet, as much as we can all be tired of the confidence mantra, as the authors point out in this book, it is important.
It’s particularly important because confidence is what allows you to take that first step, to get going, and to compound action over time.
And it can be especially important for women, who often suffer of confidence shortage compared to men.
The authors not only delve deep into the research literature, but they also have plenty of advice on how to make up for that gap.
Quote: We’re saying that there’s a third way. We don’t always have to speak first; we can listen, and incorporate what others say (…) We can pass credit around, and we can avoid alienating potential enemies. We can speak calmly but carry a smart message (…) Confidence, for many of us, can even be quiet. Any of that might be the way confident behavior looks for women.
#5. Radical Candor
Kim Scott is a very successful businesswoman. And she even worked for Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg.
Hence, some gender-issues were sure to find their way in.
But not in your typical “women should help other women” kind of way. Kim Scott treats gender issues as much as she treats anything else: respect people, not matter their gender or beliefs, while also for maximum efficiency.
Indeed, “Radical Candor” is for women as much as it is for men. It’s one of the best books on leadership and effective corporate culture I have ever read.
I liked Kim Scott’s approach.
She also says that men must overcome their biases to be gentler towards women. And as much as that might sound strange for those who haven’t grasped her mindset yet, that’s the true mindset of an empowered woman. Because women can take as much harsh feedback as men can, and they need it as much as men do, if we want to help them grow.
That’s the type of feminism I like.
Here is in Kim’s own words:
Quote: Most men are trained from birth to be “gentler” with women. Sometimes this can be very bad for women (…). The most sexist man I ever worked for was invariably far more reluctant to criticize me than the men who worked for him. He lived in mortal fear of making me cry. He made plenty of men who worked for him cry, but that didn’t seem to register with him.
#4. Hardball for Women
Now that’s a befitting title for a website called “ThePowerMoves”.
And boy, does Pat Heim both understands and well explains power dynamics. More than one author in this list took more than a proverbial leaf out of her book. And for good reasons: “Hardball for Women” is a classic.
Ladies, if you need to learn how to play the game the way the boys do, and most businesses at the top level play a boys’ game, this is your book.
Even as a non-novice, I learned a lot from this book and took out many lessons for this website’s course “Social Power”.
The only reason it doesn’t feature higher is that sometimes I missed the mix of strength with femininity.
Quote: Power is an uncomfortable subject for many. In fact, women tell us they don’t want to deal with that “power stuff” because they aren’t “power hungry.” They act as if power is a social disease to be avoided at all costs.
Simply stated, power is the ability to get things done. If you don’t have power, you’re going to be ineffectual at work.
#3. The Myth of The Nice Girl
Can a “nice girl” make it in business, without becoming a “bitch”?
Sure she can, explains Fran Hauser.
What I like most is that this is not a literary work, like some books are, but it’s based on both solid research, and her own successful experience as a media executive, an investor, and a mentor and advocate for women in business.
Of course, “nice” cannot mean “pushover”, and Fran well explains the difference in her book.
But the bottom line is: a woman can be herself, remain kind, and achieve success.
That’s a very important message.
Quote: In fact, as I learned to own my natural kindness, it has become my professional superpower.
It has helped me build my personal confidence; the loyalty of those who’ve worked with me; and a strong, trusting, faithful network of colleagues, mentors, and mentees.
#2. How Women Rise
“How Women Rise” lists 12 habits that are most likely to affect women and prevent them from rising in their business, their career, and their life as well.
For each habit, there are case studies of women who them, together with how they did it, and how it’s helping them flourish.
The are many reasons why I liked this book, and one of them is the expertise that Goldsmith, one of the authors, brings on male leadership.
So you don’t just learn about typically female strengths and weaknesses, but also about the typical male stumbling block, so that you can compare.
That’s also helpful because not all women are equipped with the stereotypical female brain. A few women, some say around 10%, have more stereotypical male brains. With this book, you can cover both bases.
Finally, another great plus of “How Women Rise” is that it encourages women to also hold on to their more stereotypically feminine traits since they also are advantages. They can make for a better life, and a better a world.
I couldn’t agree more. Hence the quote that I picked:
Quote: Certain characteristics emerge: diligence, conscientiousness, a concern for the feelings and contributions of others, and a reluctance to join the it’s-all-about-me competition that characterizes life and politics in many organizations.
These are good things, (…) gifts you bring to the world. (…) And since part of your success will ultimately be helping to make your organization, and the world, a better place, you don’t want to leave these strengths behind as you move higher.
#1. Power University
By Lucio Buffalmano
Take this with a grain of salt, because Workplace Power is the work module of this website’s flagship course.
The course combines all the best wisdom from all these books and more, plus the latest researches, delivered with videos, pictures, quizzes, and infographics, so you can learn better with visual examples.
Also Worth a Read:
- Bad Blood: Not the example you want to learn from. But as someone said, a (bad) woman can play the exact same game as a male sociopath. Vicious, power-hungry, and ruthless
- The No Asshole Rule: The N.1 rule for a healthy business culture and a healthy team environment: don’t tolerate assholes
- Principles: company culture and company systems from a guy who built a multi-billion company
- Best entrepreneurship books: there are a few gender differences that, yes, do justify reading at least a few books written specifically for women. But you can also learn plenty from books written by men, for a more gender-neutral audience
Avoid These Business Books for Women:
- Get Rich Lucky Bitch, Lucky Bitch, The Secret, and all the woo-woo BS based on law of attraction, high frequency vibrations, and “willing things into life”
No, don’t get rich with lucky bitch, get real instead.
No dissing to those authors, I don’t know them and as far as I know, they might be wonderful human beings.
What I have issues with, is the content of those books.
Lemme be frank here: one of the least appreciated reasons men are more successful in business is this: men make more money in business because men don’t waste time with woo-woo BS and focus instead of what’s been proven to work.
It’s not a chance that Ray Dalio, who prides himself on being a hyper-realist, built the most efficient decision-making process, to fuel the most effective trading company in the world.