Book Corner: Books to Inspire Women in Leadership

No matter your age or where you are in your life journey, there is always wisdom to be gleaned from the experiences of others in leadership. While there are many canonical books on leadership and management available, not all of them are uniquely tailored to women and the issues of gender equality, overcoming stereotypes surrounding ambitious women, and balancing personal and professional lives. 

The University of Mary Washington’s annual Women’s Leadership Colloquium is a gathering of Fredericksburg-area women of all industries and career stages who come together to network and learn from one another. This year’s Colloquium, scheduled for Friday, November 4, features keynote speaker Fran Hauser, celebrated media executive and champion of women’s leadership.

Central Rappahannock Regional Library is partnering with the Colloquium to host discussions of Fran Hauser’s book “The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate.” Read the book, then join a lively discussion with like-minded women hosted by Colloquium members and library staff. One lucky attendee will win a free ticket to the Colloquium on November 4! Learn about the Colloquium and register to attend at umw.edu/lcpw, opens a new window

There are four book discussions happening between August and October. Visit librarypoint.org/events and search the keyword “Myth”, opens a new window to see dates, times, and locations and to get details on borrowing a copy of Ms. Hauser’s book.

The Myth of the Nice Girl, opens a new window by Fran Hauser
Best-selling author and leadership expert Hauser, who has held senior positions at major digital media businesses such as People and InStyle, regularly speaks on women’s empowerment, career fulfillment, and collective wellbeing. In “The Myth of the Nice Girl”, she provides a guide for ambitious women who want to succeed while staying true to themselves. Hauser picks apart the double standards that label women and shares ways to sidestep harmful gender stereotypes that have long held women back, teaching the reader how to cultivate confidence and to balance personal and professional values.

Here are a few more inspirational books to add to your leadership reading list:

Unapologetically Ambitious, opens a new window by Shellye Archambeau
The story of Archambeau’s rise to success as an African American woman in the tech industry illuminates her determination as she grew up dealing with frequent moves and racial tension, pushing her way through Wharton and an internship, then upward until she became CEO of software company Zaplet and Verizon board member. While Archambeau’s tale is more memoir than leadership how-to, aspiring leaders will still find helpful advice on countering imposter syndrome, identifying priorities, and becoming self-confident. 

The No Club, opens a new window by Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart
Four women working in academia discovered that they all fell into a similar trap: not being able to say “no,” while their male counterparts felt no such compunction to say yes to things they didn’t want to do or that wouldn’t advance their careers. Babcock and her colleagues began researching what they coined “non-promotable tasks,” or dead-end work that does nothing to advance careers. Such tasks, they found, hinder the advancement of women from all industries, from law firms to restaurants. The four women met regularly to coach one another on how to identify and clear away non-promotable tasks, without pushing them onto other female colleagues, and make room for meaningful work. “The No Club” is the result of their research and strategies to reduce non-promotable work and provides solid practicable tips for any woman to implement personally and professionally. 

Dare to Lead, opens a new window by Brené Brown
TEDx speaker, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author Brown presents her culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership. Leadership isn’t black and white, nor is it easy. It can be scary and messy and leave us feeling unmoored. But that’s Brown’s whole point: leadership takes courage and the willingness to be vulnerable, to stay curious and ask questions instead of dictating. A leader is anyone who brings out the potential they see in other people and ideas, and they do that through building empathy, courage, and connection. Leaders don’t wield titles and hoard power; they build power by sharing it. Leaders don’t avoid difficult conversations, and they aren’t stopped by a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty. 

This Is How We Rise: Reach Your Highest Potential, Empower Women, Lead Change In The World, opens a new window by Claudia Chan
Leadership expert and champion of women’s empowerment Chan presents her vision of a “new breed of leaders” in a gender-equal society where women and men see beyond their personal success and work together to lift one another up and achieve social change. With an uplifting, empathetic tone, Chan takes the reading through her 13 foundations of personal leadership. She provides thought-provoking assignments to the reader and, at the end, presents step-by-step guidelines on creating a personal action plan. Whether you’re just starting a career or are at the top of your field, Chan’s accessible plan will inspire you to develop your own purpose and pathway for becoming a force for good.

It's About Damn Time, opens a new window by Arlan Hamilton
Hamilton is proof positive that you don’t need to come from a privileged background or have a fancy college degree to be successful. Several years ago, Hamilton, a gay Black woman, was living on food stamps and sleeping in an airport with an old laptop and a dream of becoming a venture capitalist. She didn’t understand why people starting companies were all white and male, and she wanted to be able to invest in the ideas and people who didn’t conform to the image of how founders were “supposed” to look. What Hamilton did have was determination and a powerful will to succeed, and succeed she did, today making a living investing in people who are female, LGBTQ, or people of color. The hard-won wisdom Hamilton passes on to the reader in her journey is that there is an upside to being underestimated: that when you work twice as hard to get to the starting line, then you’ll sprint ahead once on a level playing field.


Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.