The Best Female Entrepreneur Books: 12 Essential Reads

POSTED ON Nov 7, 2023

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

Home > Blog > Business > The Best Female Entrepreneur Books: 12 Essential Reads

Navigating your business journey requires inspiration as well as acumen.

The journeys of pioneering women in business, documented in their own words, provide both.

This article illuminates the invaluable insights and strategies from these iconic female entrepreneur books, offering a unique blend of biography and actionable advice.


1. Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

As Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg has been instrumental in the platform’s meteoric rise.

But her influence extends beyond board meetings and product launches. Sandberg has been a vocal advocate for women in leadership, launching initiatives that aim to level the playing field in corporate arenas. Her commitment is seen in her continuous efforts to address the gender disparity in tech and beyond.

“Lean In” delves into the intricate barriers women face in the professional sphere. Sandberg combines robust research with personal experiences, offering a pragmatic view on gender dynamics in workplaces. More than just a reflection, the book is a playbook, offering tangible strategies for women to assert their presence and leadership.

Five key takeaways from Lean In

1. “Sit at the table”: Sandberg stresses proactive participation, encouraging women to be visible and vocal.

2. “The leadership ambition gap”: A dive into how societal norms may limit women’s aspirations and how to counteract them.

3. “Don’t leave before you leave”: The importance of remaining fully engaged in one’s career, even in the face of potential future shifts.

4. “Success and likeability”: The disproportionate scrutiny women face when ascending the ladder and how to navigate it.

5. “Mentorship and sponsorship”: The undeniable value of building and leveraging professional relationships for career progression.

What you can learn from Lean In

For any professional, Sandberg’s experience presents several takeaways.

Firstly, don’t sideline yourself; be assertive in your professional pursuits. Recognize and combat internalized limitations—often, the first step to breaking external barriers is confronting the internal ones. Foster and prioritize meaningful professional relationships; they can be accelerators in one’s career trajectory.

Lastly, continuously advocate for an inclusive work environment; it not only benefits you but sets the stage for future leaders.

2. Arianna Huffington – Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Arianna Huffington’s achievements in the world of media are widely recognized, most notably as the co-founder of The Huffington Post.

Her impact isn’t just confined to pioneering digital journalism. Huffington’s subsequent venture, Thrive Global, underscores her dedication to improving well-being and productivity in our increasingly digital lives. A visionary, she’s consistently pushed boundaries, merging media, health, and technology.

In “Thrive”, Huffington urges a redefinition of success. Moving beyond the conventional markers of money and power, she introduces a more holistic measure – one that incorporates well-being, intuition, and personal growth. The book acts as a reminder that success isn’t just about climbing corporate ladders, but ensuring one’s overall well-being isn’t compromised in the process.

Five key takeaways from Thrive

1. “Third metric of success”: It’s not just wealth and power; it’s also well-being, wisdom, and wonder.

2. “Power of disconnecting”: The importance of digital detoxes for mental clarity.

3. “Redefining success”: Expanding the traditional definitions to account for personal fulfillment.

4. “Importance of sleep”: Prioritizing rest as a key component of productivity and decision-making.

5. “Giving and compassion”: How giving back can enhance personal and professional success.

What you can learn from Thrive

Huffington’s work offers a fresh perspective on how to approach business and life.

It’s crucial to recognize that relentless hustle without pause isn’t sustainable. Regularly disconnect from digital chains, ensuring time for reflection and rest. Challenge traditional success metrics; they might not be the best fit for everyone.

And always remember, nurturing personal well-being isn’t just good for you—it enhances business decisions and creativity.

3. Sophia Amoruso – #GIRLBOSS

Sophia Amoruso’s rise from an eBay store to the founder of the fashion juggernaut, Nasty Gal, is nothing short of remarkable.

Her unorthodox entry into the business world has solidified her status as a maverick in the fashion industry. Despite facing significant challenges, Amoruso’s persistence and flair for branding have made her a force to reckon with.

#GIRLBOSS is an unfiltered account of Amoruso’s journey. The narrative doesn’t sugarcoat. Instead, it offers raw insights into the highs and lows of building a business from scratch. Amoruso emphasizes the significance of authenticity, grit, and intuitive decision-making in her rise.

Five key takeaways from #GIRLBOSS

1. “Starting small”: Embrace humble beginnings; they often lead to significant outcomes.

2. “Trust your gut”: In business, intuition can be as vital as data.

3. “Challenges as stepping stones”: Every setback is a lesson in disguise.

4. “The value of hard work”: Success isn’t handed down; it’s earned.

5. “Defining your success”: It’s personal, so chart your own course.

What you can learn from #GIRLBOSS

From Amoruso’s journey, several directives emerge.

Embrace beginnings, no matter how modest. They form the foundation of grand structures. Be prepared for challenges—they are inevitable. But more importantly, view them as growth opportunities. Your instinct, honed by experience and understanding of your industry, is invaluable. Trust it.

Be sure to remember, success is personal. Define it on your terms, not society’s.

4. Melinda Gates – The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

Melinda Gates, renowned philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has long been at the forefront of global health and education initiatives.

Her dedication extends beyond charitable donations, with hands-on involvement in projects that aim for systemic change. Gates’ commitment to empowering women and girls globally has brought transformative shifts in communities worldwide.

In “The Moment of Lift,” Gates sheds light on the stories of women she’s encountered during her philanthropic endeavors. More than just anecdotes, these tales underline the systemic barriers many women face and the ripple effect of empowerment. Gates argues for the urgent need to lift women, emphasizing its broader societal benefits.

Five key takeaways from The Moment of Lift

1. “Lift and rise”: When women rise, societies benefit at multiple levels.

2. “Barriers to equality”: Deep-rooted societal norms that impede women’s progress.

3. “The power of connection”: How community-building can be transformative.

4. “Educating girls”: Why it’s a cornerstone for societal progress.

5. “Family planning”: Empowering women to decide their futures.

What you can learn from The Moment of Lift

Gates’ narrative presents actionable insights for businesses.

Recognizing and addressing gender disparities isn’t just a moral imperative but brings holistic benefits to organizations. Emphasize on building community and connections within the workforce, fostering a sense of belonging. Always prioritize education and continuous learning.

Lastly, remember that giving employees control and agency in their roles promotes innovation and loyalty.

5. Indra Nooyi – My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future

Former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, has a legacy that’s hard to match.

Under her leadership, the company not only saw robust financial growth but also pioneered health-focused shifts in their product line. Born in India, Nooyi’s journey to helm one of the world’s most influential corporations speaks volumes of her determination, vision, and adaptability.

In “My Life in Full,” Nooyi offers an introspective look into her life, intertwining personal stories with business lessons. The book delves into the challenges she faced, both as a woman of color in the corporate world and in balancing family with a demanding role. Her narrative underlines the significance of adaptability, vision, and resilience.

Five key takeaways from My Life in Full

1. “Visionary leadership”: Steering a giant corporation towards future trends.

2. “The double burden”: Navigating professional and personal responsibilities.

3. “Global mindset”: Leveraging diverse perspectives for business growth.

4. “Stakeholder-centric approach”: Prioritizing not just shareholders but all stakeholders.

5. “Continuous learning”: The never-ending journey of personal and professional development.

What you can learn from My Life in Full

Nooyi’s story is rife with lessons.

Adopt a global perspective in business strategies; diverse inputs lead to more rounded decisions. Anticipate market shifts and adapt accordingly. Recognize that employees often juggle multiple roles; creating a supportive environment enhances productivity. Prioritize all stakeholders, from customers to employees, ensuring a holistic growth approach.

And perhaps most importantly, never stop learning or pushing boundaries.

4. Whitney Wolfe Herd – Make the First Move

Whitney Wolfe Herd stands out as a trailblazer in the tech world, especially with her groundbreaking app, Bumble.

As its founder and CEO, she transformed the dynamics of dating apps by empowering women to make the first move. Her fierce commitment to promoting female leadership is evident, not just in Bumble’s design but in its corporate culture.

In “Make the First Move,” Wolfe Herd delves into her journey, sharing insights on building a business in a male-dominated industry. The book chronicles the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and provides a blueprint for disrupting spaces with innovative ideas.

Five key takeaways Make the First Move

1. “Empowerment through design”: Creating products that reflect and promote your values.

2. “Challenges of entrepreneurship”: The resilience required to navigate business hurdles.

3. “Workplace culture”: Building an environment that champions diversity and inclusion.

4. “Disruption as a tool”: Leveraging unique perspectives to challenge industry norms.

5. “Women in tech”: The importance of female representation in the technology sector.

What you can learn from Make the First Move

Wolfe Herd’s narrative drives home several key points.

Products should not only serve a function but also champion values. An inclusive workplace isn’t just a buzzword; it drives innovation and growth. Embrace disruption, even if it means challenging long-standing norms.

Perhaps the main takeaway is to always understand that resilience and adaptability are as crucial as innovation in entrepreneurship.

5. Tory Burch – In Color

Fashion icon Tory Burch has become synonymous with classic American style.

Her brand, launched from her kitchen, grew exponentially in record time, making her a household name. Beyond fashion, Burch is dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs through her foundation.

“In Color” isn’t your typical memoir; it’s a visual journey. Each chapter, dedicated to a different color, delves into her inspirations and influences. The book provides rare insights into the mind of a designer, showing how everyday experiences can be transformed into tangible products.

Five key takeaways from In Color

1. “Power of observation”: Finding inspiration in daily life.

2. “Building a brand”: The journey of creating and nurturing a fashion empire.

3. “Philanthropy in business”: Integrating charitable efforts with business objectives.

4. “Influence of travel”: How global experiences shape design perspectives.

5. “Entrepreneurial challenges”: The highs and lows of building a brand from scratch.

What you can learn from In Color

Burch’s trajectory offers a wealth of lessons.

In business, it’s essential to remain observant; sometimes, the simplest observations can lead to the most profound innovations. Building a brand requires consistency, vision, and adaptability. Integrating philanthropic efforts into business models can lead to holistic growth.

Embrace global influences, and remember that every challenge faced is a stepping stone to success.

6. Jessica Jackley – Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least

Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, the world’s first peer-to-peer micro-lending website, stands out as an entrepreneur who has effectively harnessed technology to empower underserved communities.

Her passion lies in finding innovative solutions to age-old problems and championing grassroots entrepreneurship.

“Clay Water Brick” explores the resilience and ingenuity of entrepreneurs from remote corners of the world. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s ability to innovate, even in the direst circumstances, and offers lessons in creativity, perseverance, and empathy.

Five key takeaways from Clay Water Brick

1. “Grassroots innovation”: The untapped potential of local entrepreneurship.

2. “Empathy-driven ventures”: Businesses built on understanding and addressing real needs.

3. “Microfinance’s might”: How small loans can spark big changes.

4. “Resilience in adversity”: Stories of entrepreneurs who thrive amidst challenges.

5. “Tech for good”: Leveraging technology to drive social impact.

What you can learn from Clay Water Brick

Jackley’s experiences teach us that innovation isn’t confined to Silicon Valley.

Great business ideas can sprout in the most unexpected places. To truly drive change, businesses must develop a deep understanding of the communities they serve. Even small investments, when directed rightly, can yield transformative results.

And never forget — technology should be seen as a tool to magnify social impact, not just profit.

7. Barbara Corcoran – Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business

Barbara Corcoran, with her remarkable journey from a waitress to a real estate magnate, exemplifies grit, savvy, and determination.

Her sharp business acumen and fearless approach have not only shaped her enterprise but also made her a formidable force on “Shark Tank.”

“Shark Tales” chronicles Barbara’s ascent in the competitive New York real estate scene. The book is a treasure trove of business lessons, weaving together tales of risk, innovation, and sheer determination.

Five key takeaways from Shark Tales

1. “Grit over gold”: The unmatched value of determination and hard work.

2. “Innovate or perish”: The necessity of staying ahead of market trends.

3. “Power of branding”: Crafting and maintaining a standout business image.

4. “Risk as an ally”: Harnessing risks to propel business growth.

5. “Negotiation nuances”: Mastering the art of striking win-win deals.

What you can learn from Shark Tales

From Corcoran’s narrative, one grasps that passion often trumps capital.

A relentless drive can overcome most obstacles. Keeping an eye on market shifts and being ready to pivot is essential in today’s dynamic world. Branding isn’t just a logo; it’s an experience.

Above all, effective negotiation isn’t about outsmarting the other but finding mutual value.

8. Nilofer Merchant – The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World

Nilofer Merchant, an esteemed innovator and business strategist, boasts a track record of launching products and building companies worth billions.

Dubbed the “Jane Bond of Innovation” by her peers, Merchant’s insights on collaborative work have reshaped industries.

In “The Power of Onlyness,” Merchant emphasizes the value of individuality in the world of business. She argues that breakthrough ideas often come from the most unexpected places, and it’s these unique perspectives that drive real change.

Five key takeaways from The Power of Onlyness

1. “Value of uniqueness”: Harnessing individual perspectives in collaborative spaces.

2. “Innovation’s origin”: How diverse backgrounds can lead to breakthroughs.

3. “Collaboration over competition”: The might of collective action.

4. “Ideas as currency”: Why fresh perspectives are invaluable in business.

5. “Creating safe spaces”: Cultivating environments where ideas thrive.

What you can learn from The Power of Onlyness

Merchant’s work impresses upon us that every voice, no matter how unconventional, holds value.

In businesses, fostering environments that welcome diverse ideas can be a game-changer. More brains are indeed better than one, emphasizing the importance of collaboration. New perspectives shouldn’t be shunned; they should be sought.

Be sure to reflect on her belief that for innovation to thrive, it’s crucial to cultivate a culture of trust and safety.

11. Diane von Fürstenberg – The Woman I Wanted to Be

Diane von Fürstenberg, a fashion mogul and icon, revolutionized the clothing industry with her signature wrap dress.

Beyond fashion, she’s an ardent philanthropist and an advocate for women’s rights. Her journey from a fledgling designer to a global brand stands as an inspiration for many.

In “The Woman I Wanted to Be,” Diane offers a candid look into her life, blending tales of her personal struggles and triumphs with insights into her business journey. It’s a narrative of resilience, ambition, and self-discovery.

Five key takeaways from The Woman I Wanted to Be

1. “Identity and integrity”: Staying true to oneself in a changing world.

2. “Fashion as empowerment”: Clothes as a medium of expression and confidence.

3. “Reinvention”: Continual self-evolution in personal and professional spheres.

4. “Global vision”: Building an internationally resonant brand.

5. “Philanthropy’s power”: Giving back as an intrinsic part of success.

What you can learn from The Woman I Wanted to Be

Diane’s narrative teaches us that maintaining a sense of self is crucial amidst the shifting sands of the fashion industry.

Clothing isn’t just fabric; it’s a statement of identity. Continual self-reinvention is key to staying relevant. A truly global brand speaks to universal values and aesthetics.

Ultimately, you should strongly believe after reading Diane's book that success isn’t just about accumulating wealth, but also about channeling it for positive change.

12. Rebecca Minkoff – Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success

Rebecca Minkoff, a powerhouse in the contemporary fashion industry, is renowned for her accessible luxury handbags, accessories, and apparel.

With a keen sense for market demands and a fearless approach to innovation, she has cultivated a brand that resonates deeply with modern consumers.

“Fearless” delves into Rebecca’s entrepreneurial journey, offering a blend of personal anecdotes and actionable advice. It’s a roadmap for navigating the challenging terrains of business with creativity and courage, while not shying away from risks.

Five key takeaways from Fearless

1. “Daring to dream”: The audacity to envision and chase big goals.

2. “Creative courage”: Harnessing creativity even under constraints.

3. “Risk as a rite”: Embracing challenges as integral to business growth.

4. “Collaborative strength”: Tapping into collective genius.

5. “Adaptable ethos”: Pivoting with grace in response to market shifts.

What you can learn from Fearless

Minkoff’s journey underscores the importance of audacious vision.

Creativity isn’t just about ideation, but execution amidst challenges. Risks aren’t deterrents but essential rites of passage in business. Collaborative efforts often yield richer results than solo endeavors.

One of the best lessons you can learn is how an adaptable business isn’t just reactive; it’s proactive, foreseeing and moving with market trends.

Are you add your own voice to the legacy of female entepreneur books?

Success in the world of business isn’t solely about financial gain or brand recognition.

It’s about carving a unique path, staying true to one’s vision, and making impactful contributions.

Each of these women has penned down not just their successes, but their struggles, beliefs, and lessons learned along the way.

As a reader, you hold a wealth of entrepreneurial wisdom in your hands.

But the narrative doesn’t end here.

You, too, have stories, insights, and lessons worth sharing. Write down your journey. Share your wisdom. Boost your profile, and in doing so, inspire others.

By leaving a tangible legacy through a book, you play a part in shaping the entrepreneurial world of tomorrow.

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