Running your own business means learning as you go. To that end, I’ve read many books, on varied topics, from self-marketing to design inspiration to colour theory. Some of the most memorable books I’ve read have been written by women. I’ve selected three favourites below and I hope this might spur you on to further reading:
My original training was in electrical engineering, which was and still is a fairly male-dominated field. In the past, this would pose a problem for women as they may have suffered chauvinism and harassment in a gender-unbalanced workplace. But by the time I was in postsecondary school, I found the doors and barriers to be wide-open: my classmates and professors treated all of us as equals, and despite my being one of only 8 females out of 80 students, our class was very much on equal footing. So if an unfair work environment is no longer common, then why the continued gender imbalance in male-dominated fields? The Sexual Paradox by Susan Pinker explores one theory. She writes that now that women have fought for so long to remove the glass ceiling, it turns out the majority of females don’t think of a career as the only means to life fulfillment. It is normal – indeed common – for highly educated women to scale back their professions once they begin having children. So even though the race is now pretty equal in many ways, it turns out it’s not a race many women want to join. Part of her reasoning is that even though the workplace is no longer openly hostile to women, there is a still a fair amount of unconscious gender discrimination and preference for male qualities as a measure for success that continue to put women at a disadvantage and sometimes the fight just doesn’t seem worth it.
Where Susan Pinker leaves off, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg does a fantastic job of picking up. The COO of Facebook explores many facets of the current corporate climate and how it does a disservice to women, even men, of certain temperaments. That a man is praised, respected even, for his aggressive tendencies but a woman’s greatest asset is that she is “nice” certainly makes scaling the corporate ladder difficult for females. The push to work longer and harder rather than prioritize family just as much as the workplace also places further stress on anyone, but particularly women, who want to focus on their children during their formative years. Sandberg does a great job advocating very specific policy changes workplaces can implement immediately that can even out the playing field without having to resort to affirmative action.
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine is just one of those books that EVERYONE has to read. Seriously; I texted the book cover to a friend of mine urging her to read it after I was only on page 45! Brizendine states that even though 99.5% of our DNA is the same between males and females, our hormone levels and when and how much we produce of them has anything and everything to do with how we maintain relationships, make decisions, and react during stress. She also points out that there is almost no clinical data on females (a colleague admitted they never use female animals during studies because menstruation would make things more complicated), and yet there is so much valuable information to gain when understanding the differences between the sexes.
So, if you are interested in learning more about women in business, these titles should do a great job of getting you started. Happy reading!