Though women have made great strides in all areas of the workforce, it is a fact that they are still underrepresented in leadership roles in companies, politics, judiciary, institutions of higher education, and other areas. More women need to come ahead by breaking the proverbial glass ceiling.
Fortunately, there are a few women leaders who have already paved the way and have some advice to offer. Here are a few books that have been written by women leaders in their field after years of experience and research.
Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg, Business Executive
Sheryl Sandberg is an American business executive who has held various responsible positions in different companies. She has served as COO of Meta Platforms and of Facebook too. She is also the founder of LeanIn.Org. She was elected to Facebook’s board of directors thereby becoming the first woman to serve on its board.
As head of Facebook’s advertising business, Sandberg was credited for making the company profitable. Sandberg was Vice President of global online sales and operations at Google before joining Facebook.
Through her book ‘Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’, Sheryl Sandberg intends to help women to help them achieve their career goals and encourages them to assert themselves at work and home. She thinks that there are barriers that are still preventing women from taking leadership roles in the workplace. Barriers are in the form of discrimination, blatant and subtle sexism, and sexual harassment. Sandberg claims there are also barriers that women create for themselves through internalizing systematic discrimination and societal gender roles.
She believes that for change to happen women need to break down these societal and personal barriers by striving for and achieving leadership roles. The ultimate goal is to encourage women to lean into positions of leadership. By having more female voices in positions of power there will be more equitable opportunities created for everyone. She also highlighted the issue of the paucity of women in government and business leadership positions.
My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, by Indra Nooyi, Business Executive
Indra Nooyi is an Indian American former CEO and Chairperson of PepsiCo from 2006 to 2019. In 2007, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in the Republic of India. In 2007 and 2008, Time magazine listed her among the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2008, Forbes named her the third most powerful woman in business while Fortune ranked her the sixth most powerful woman in the world.
At PepsiCo, she was the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, the company’s mission to deliver sustained growth by making more nutritious products, limiting the company’s environmental footprint, and empowering its associates and people in the communities it serves.
How did Indra Nooyi do it? What kept her going? How did she manage her home and heart while running the second-largest food and beverage business in the world? Read more about this unusual woman in her memoirs – My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future published in 2021. It is a must-read book filled with lessons, optimism, and warmth about Indra Nooyi’s struggle and grit to climb the ladder of success and then the juggling act between career and family.
She shares a road map for anyone who aspires to merge social change along with leading a large organization. Through her book, she also brings to our notice how our society continues to sacrifice talent instead of changing how we organize work to maximize everyone’s potential to live full and productive lives. She makes a clear, actionable, urgent call for businesses and governments to prioritize the care ecosystem, paid leave, and work flexibility, and a convincing argument for how improving company and community support for young family builders will unleash the economy’s full potential.
A must-read for women from all walks of life and the men who work love, and support women.
Becoming by Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States
Michelle Obama is an American Attorney and author who has also been the First Lady of the United States. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she served as a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating.
She also helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history while standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. ‘Becoming’ is the former First Lady’s memoir which is filled with pearls of wisdom. It is an inspirational life story of Michelle Obama and motivates the readers to move forward with their dreams regardless of circumstances and criticism. It is a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling. Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.
With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments telling her full story as she has lived it in her own words and on her terms.
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the
Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai, a female education activist co-written with Christina Lamb
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani female education activist and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She is the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate and the second Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native homeland, Swat, where the Pakistani Taliban had banned girls from attending school.
After she was shot in her head by the Taliban when she was 15 years old, her advocacy has grown into an international movement and she has become Pakistan’s most prominent citizen.
I am Malala is an autobiographical account of Malala’s life who fought for her right to education and as a teenager refused to be silenced even by the Taliban. On October 9, 2012, she was shot in the head at point-blank range by the Taliban. She miraculously recovered after a series of surgeries and thereon she has been on an extraordinary journey to the hall of fame.
The central message of this book is that no matter what the obstacles — whether economic, cultural, or social — everybody is entitled to a quality education as a human right.
Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game by Abby
Wambach, a Soccer player
Abby Wambach is a two times Olympic gold medallist, FIFA World Cup Champion, and the highest all-time international goal scorer for male and female soccer players. She is also an activist for equality and inclusion and in 2015 her name was in Times 100 as one of the most influential people in the world.
Abby is a co-founder of Wolfpack Endeavor, which is revolutionizing leadership development for women at the workplace and beyond through her champion mindset, individualized coaching, and team-bound focus.
Abby Wambach became a champion and an icon because of her remarkable leadership qualities and helped transform a group of individual women into one of the most successful, powerful, and united wolf packs of all time. As the co-captain of the 2015 Women’s World Cup Champion Team, she created a culture not just of excellence but of honor, commitment, resilience, and sisterhood.
Through her book – WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game, Abby Wambach urges women to unleash their individual power, unite with their pack, and emerge victorious together.
In this book, Abby has a vision for women:
“We have never been Little Red Riding Hood. We Are the Wolves. We must wander off the path and blaze a new one: together.”
It means – we are not the Little Red Riding Hoods who would stay on the path because we are told to. We are the wolves, fighting for a better tomorrow for ourselves, our pack, and all the future wolves who will come after us. She insists in the book that women must not give importance to the old rules of leadership
which did not include or serve them. She created a new set of wolf pack rules to help women unleash their individual power, unite with their wolf pack, and change the course of their lives from the family room to the board room to the White House.
Hope by reading these books by women leaders in their fields you will be able to gain knowledge and insights on skills and perspectives required to thrive in the leadership role.
Nivedita Chitnis is a corporate HR Generalist, independent writer, and editor