International Women’s Day happened just recently and with that thought in mind we went to our bookshelves. We found some inspiring stories of women in the workplace and women entrepreneurs – actually we found what we think are the five best books for women entrepreneurs. And we included a couple of fiction gems so that you can take some time off.
While these are not all business handbooks, obviously, but they are stories of the struggles that women entrepreneurs have faced trying to balance work, family life, societal expectations, health problems, and sometimes, mental illness. These women will inspire you to keep going, or maybe, to start something fresh. From Hollywood comedy writers and internet geeks to philanthropists and mental health campaigners we have everything covered.
Reading about these women has certainly reinvigorated our aspirations and work – we suggest that you check them out as well.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
While Fey herself is not an entrepreneur, she did have to make it in two male dominated fields – television and comedy. And she made it in a big way. She was Saturday Night Live’s head writer for a long time, as well as head writer for 30 Rock. The introduction to her book gives the only practical advice to women looking to succeed in a male workplace: “no pigtails, no tube tops.” And “some people say ‘never let them see you cry.’ I say if you’re so mad you could cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.” And our personal favourite “don’t eat diet foods in meetings”. The book is about her childhood and her experiences in the workplace rather than a practical handbook. But her rise to fame is an inspiring story – from the lanky awkward teenager to one of Time magazine’s most influential people – it is hard to put down.
Let IT Go: The Memoirs of Dame Stephanie Shirley by Dame Stephaine Shirley
In 1962 Shirley created a business – Freelance Programmers. It was wildly successful. And she focused on employing women with dependents in a time when women in the workplace were frowned upon and women’s rights were marginally recognized. She called herself “Steve” to have a greater say in the male dominated business world. Her memoirs are awe inspiring; from her arrival in England as a refugee of WWII, part of the unaccompanied Kindertransport from Germany, to her philanthropic work with Autism. This is worth the read for anyone who has big dreams.
Furiously Happy: A funny book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson
You may know Lawson by her other name, the Blogess, which is her wildly successful web site. However, she is also the creator of the silver ribbon campaign for those who have survived (or are surviving) mental illness. This book is a look at mental illness in its various forms and introduces her new campaign. You will laugh, cry, and be scared that you identify with much of what she has to say. The tone of the book is manic and frenetic, however, if you can get beyond that you are in for stories about creating amazing memories, work life balance, and a taxidermy raccoon.
You are Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day
Day is an amazing internet everything. From running successful web series (The Guild), to online book clubs (Vaginal Fantasy), and getting the first internet musical off the ground (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris). From her odd childhood and the beginnings of the internet to the entrepreneur that she has become today – Day takes us on one weird journey. While the book is light on practical business advice there is a great deal of real world experience and advice related to handling stress and health issues while creating a global brand, getting doxed during a global scandal, and handling internet trolls.
Business as usual
We realize that you may want a bit of practical advice if you are just starting out in the entrepreneurial world. And so, we have picked a book that is an inspiring story of a successful woman entrepreneur with some handy tips along the way.
#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
From her inauspicious beginnings selling a stolen book on eBay to her multi-million-dollar fashion empire, Amoruso will have you glued to the page soaking up every piece of advice she has to offer. From “know when to throw punches and when to roll with them” to “dream big but start small”, the book is useful for anyone who is just starting out or looking to scale up. Included in the book are portraits of other successful women that she has met along the way. While her story telling lacks a little luster there is much that can be learned from the Girlboss.
Take some time for yourself
Many women struggle with work life balance issues. The demands of work often intrude into our personal spaces. This is especially true of entrepreneurs for whom time at work and at home seem to blend seamlessly, and it would seem to be doubly problematic for women. So, take some time off, you know you deserve it, and read one of these fiction gems that we found for you.
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James
While this one is a trip in the way back machine, in that it was not published within the last five years, it is still valuable to consider. It is a murder mystery novel by one of the masters of the craft. Cordelia Gray is 22 years old and has just been left a less than credible almost insolvent detective agency. With no money and few options – one of them being to go back to her secretarial job – Gray pursues the case that lands on her desk. Through her investigations, Gray confronts gender stereotypes and has to work through many issues related to women in the workplace – especially women pursuing what is classically known as the men’s domain of work.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel Comics)
This book is comic in both senses of the word: it is a comic book and it is quite hilarious. Ryan North and Erica Henderson bring this superheroine to life in an amazing way. Squirrel Girl or Doreen Green, as her alter ego is called, has the proportional strength and speed of a squirrel and some pretty fantastic reasoning powers to boot – although we are not completely sure if those also come from squirrels. She struggles with balancing college life “Because you need an education to help people” and her superhero duties. Often the conflict does not end in violence but Squirrel Girl suggesting another way forward for the villain. This is an excellent read if you want to have a laugh along with a powerful superhero.