4 Must-Reads for the Female Leader

27 March 2024

Female leadership has come a long way. For instance, the share of women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies rose to an all-time high of 10.6% in 2023. This is a far cry from the early 2000s when women only made up 0.4% of leaders. Despite tremendous progress, however, female leaders are up against many challenges. A Calmerry survey of over 150 women in managerial positions found that 30.7% struggled with a toxic work environment, while 31.5% had poor work-life balance. These factors are known to impact your mental and physical health.

One way that women can overcome these challenges is by gleaning invaluable wisdom from those who’ve blazed a path before them. By reading insights from female thought leaders and experts, those women in leadership roles can better understand what they’re experiencing and forge an experience-based plan forward. Specifically, ebooks are a convenient way for perennially busy leaders to pick up useful tips for self-improvement and organizational success. Since this content is available online, it’s also easier to access various in-depth titles, many of which are written by women, for women. Here are a few to add to your list:

Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You

Up to 20% of the world’s population is estimated to be neurodivergent (ND). According to Autism Speaks, however, men are four times more likely to be diagnosed than women. This is likely because women are generally pushed to blend in and conform to socially acceptable gender norms. Thus, ND women in the workplace may struggle with shame, depression, and anxiety. Female leaders can better understand the ND women on their team through the ebook Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed For You. Written by Harvard- and Berkeley-educated Jenara Nurenberg, this women-in-business Everand bestseller dispels common misconceptions about women with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more by highlighting their real stories. It also offers practical ways for women leaders to support divergent minds better. Workplaces with ND professionals can be as much as 30% more productive, making it imperative for women leaders to understand and champion those individuals’ strengths.

When Women Lead: What They Achieve, Why They Succeed, and How We Can Learn from Them

A Peakon four-year survey of over 57,000 workers found that those at female-led companies are more likely to believe in the company’s mission, vision, and values. This results in output that better meets customers’ needs, which is essential for sustainable success, as our “What to Do Before Starting a Business” post highlights. CNBC’s Julia Boorstin understands this unique X-factor that women in leadership are able to use to usher in the aforementioned results. In this book, she outlines the key characteristics that put female leaders a cut above the rest, especially during times of crisis. Some of these characteristics include adaptability to change and the presence of an empathetic management style. Containing insights from over sixty female leaders, Boorstin highlights how they have used traits previously perceived as “weaknesses” and turned them into strengths. The book teaches women leaders that they don’t have to downplay their empathetic selves to become respectable figures in the corporate world—in fact, it may be the secret sauce.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

There’s a popular assumption that high-intelligence individuals are more primed for success. However, in this now-iconic book, Angela Duckworth presents the revolutionary idea that the key to achievement is not just brainpower but “grit.” In the instant NYT bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she explains that this represents the willingness to make mistakes and get back up again. It is a unique blend of passion and long-term tenacity honed by hours of practice, frustration, and often failure. The book takes readers through the grittiest environments in existence, from struggling cadets to teachers in underserved communities. Female leaders can leverage these learnings to foster “organizational grit,” or collective perseverance in the face of setbacks. 

The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are

Among female leaders, firmness may come off as “cold and stern,” while warmth is associated with being a pushover. Often, women adjust by making themselves more “likable,” but this self-silencing can have long-term detrimental effects. Harvard-trained psychologist Dana Jack found that women who engaged in self-silencing behaviors exhibited an increased risk of depression. In line with this, author and award-winning journalist Alicia Menendez dives into the impossible expectations women are held to, especially when factors like race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation come into the picture. With extensive research, the book focuses on the mounting pressures women face at work, in their families, and in society. Most importantly, it offers an emotionally sustainable way forward. It empowers female leaders to find practical solutions to these barriers, finding a balance between likeability and authenticity.


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