Successful Women In Business – The Books

Successful Women In Business – The Books

When I started in business, I was unaware of any books to promote successful women in business.  Business books were by men, for men.  When business books did appear focusing on women, many where academic research books.  These books were good and helpful, but I really wanted to read about real women who actually had achieved success in the workplace.  The following is a list of my top 5 business women books and what we can learn from them.

Burn your career plans – listen to your gut

One Christmas, back in 2006, a friend gave me Naked in the Boardroom by Robin Wolaner, the woman who launched Parenting magazine in the very male dominated world of magazine publishing.  She laid out a set of “Naked Truths” to help other women be successful women in business.  The one Truth that resonated the most with me was, “burn your career plans, listen to your gut”.  For many years I found myself working my “career goals” and being disappointed when something would interfere that was out of my control.  One of woman’s differentiating assets is our intuitive nature.  I realized when I listened to my inner voice; the results were much more satisfying.  Knowing that Wolaner used that asset successfully made me feel more confident when using it.

Ask for what you’re worth

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the Morning Joe program, wrote Knowing Your Value, a book about her experiences in television news.  Instead of being viewed as one of the successful women in business,no matter how hard she worked or how long she worked, she was undervalued by the network, her boss, and when she looked at the situation critically, herself.  It was the first time I actually thought that other women, even television personalities, might not know their value.  Once again, it was the real stories and consequences of Mika’s life that resonated with me.

Courage is the ultimate career move

Another dear friend gave me Katie Couric’s book, The Best Advice I Ever Got, a collection of stories and wisdom from a wide variety of people she knows and admires.  My copy is full of highlights and page flags and there are many “favorite” words of wisdom, but I think the one I take with me every day is from Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  “Courage is the ultimate career move” is the title of her piece and the main wisdom is “you must have the strength to say no to the wrong things and to embrace the right ones, even if you are the only one who seems to know the difference, even if you find the difference hard to calculate”.  I can’t imagine going into a corporate environment any other way anymore.

Turn achieving into leading

I had the opportunity to meet Anne Doyle a few years ago while she was out promoting her book, Powering Up, How America’s Woman Achievers Become Leaders, and after hearing her lecture, I was really interested in reading her book.  Anne was one of the first female sports reporters in the US, and I’ve met few women who have overcome more testosterone than she has.  I had noticed in my own work as a HR leader, the women who reported to me were just not interested in moving into leadership roles.  They were capable, and quite frankly the company needed them to step up, but they had a laundry list of reasons why they didn’t want to make the move.  Children obligations, added workload, and added accountability were the reasons given, but when pressed, what I heard was fear.  Fear of speaking up, expressing a different point of view, or having to deliver a difficult project to difficult clients was at the root of their reluctance to lead.  Anne has laid out 7 Practices that will turn achievers into leaders, whether the achiever is your employee or yourself.

We always have a choice

How many times have you said, “I had to do it – I didn’t have a choice”?  After reading Choose! The Role that Choice Plays in Shaping Women’s Lives I discovered that even when I have no other choice, I have another choice.  I could choose not to choose, or once I’ve chosen, I could choose something else.  The book is written by Marsha Clark and Dottie Gandy, two remarkable women who have been advocates for women in the workplace for decades.  Marsha was the first woman Executive Officer at EDS and Dottie is the co-founder of the National Association of Women Business Owners and has 35 years of executive leadership.  The book’s main message is that we always have a choice, and I’ve used it almost every day since I’ve read the book.

I’ve written several blogs about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and I’m grateful for Sheryl’s book because it’s started a conversation about women having a seat at the table.  It also got me thinking about the books that have been helpful to me.  Books that are written by and for women.  I hope you’ll check them out.

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I am passionate about helping women make the most of their skills and talents in the workplace, as well as encouraging them to ask for what they want and deserve. Creating Ask Ajna with Jae Lynn has been a labor of love and if we can help women find their authentic voice and support one another, we will build a community of change.


  1. What an excellent post. Thank you. I think one of the biggest challenges for women in business is juggling the strong family responsibilities with work. It can be especially difficult to return to your business after a lengthy time away to raise a family. There is a wonderful book from Joy Chudacoff called What’s Next? that focuses on those kind of scenarios and offers great advice. The book also comes with companion exercise sheets to work through. I read What’s Next last month and I thought it was absolutely marvelous. Well worth checking out.

    • Thanks for the tip, Tara, I will check this out. I talked to several women recently who are reentering the workforce and I am glad there is a resource out there. It amazes me how many different ways women juggle their careers while keeping the family running. Let us know if you run across any other good books in the future. It’s about time to post some more recommendations.


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