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There are many brilliant books on entrepreneurship, which have helped me on my start-up journey. However, there are some significant differences to being a female founder, which is why women who are running businesses or are interested in doing so need to supplement their reading with books specific to the female founder experience.
Women get a disproportionally tiny amount of funding: 2% of VC money invested in 2019 went to female founders in the US and the equivalent figure in the UK is just 1%. In a recent TED talk, Dana Kanze a doctoral researcher at Columbia Business School showed that investors ask women about the risks to their business, whereas they ask men about the opportunities in theirs. While not every business needs funding to grow, every entrepreneur needs to convince others of their business’s potential, and social conditioning and unconscious bias make this more difficult. Female founders need to be more resilient, have a thicker skin and deal with more rejection than their male counterparts. While this makes the female founder’s journey tougher, other women have overcome obstacles to build great businesses. Taking the time to learn practical advice specific to the female founder experience and find inspiration in another’s success is both energizing and useful.
Here are my top 5 picks:
Why Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
According to a study in the book, men ask for what they want four times as much as women do. This means that men are more likely to get what they want over the long run: higher salaries, better opportunities and higher valuations. By contrasting the behaviors of men and women in the context of negotiation, the authors show that more is negotiable than seems at first glance. Male and female attitudes also differ when it comes to negotiation: women often worry more about the impact that asking will have on their relationships, so ask for less than they want or work harder to prove they are worthy of getting it. Quite simply, by showing that negotiation is possible and even expected in certain contexts, this book has made me ask for more and more often.
Entrepreneurial You by Dorie Clark
This book is about how to monetize your expertise via several income streams, and can be applied to a business or an individual. Dorie Clark offers practical tips including how to build a personal brand, offer consultancy services and monetize an email list. This book is useful to full time entrepreneurs, or those who are interested in building extra income outside their formal employment. As well as the practical advice offered, it is also interesting to see how the author went from journalism, a profession with diminishing income, to a highly paid entrepreneurial portfolio career. Like the previous recommendation, this book widens the spectrum of what is possible with more asking.
How To Be An Overnight Success by Maria Hatzistefanis
The founder of luxury skin care brand Rodial writes about how she built two global beauty brands after being fired from an investment bank. This book is especially useful for women working in the consumer space, because Hatzistefanis talks in detail about how she chose the brand name and look, and what she did to position her new company among established incumbents like Dior, which have huge marketing budgets. However, this book also offers practical advice for entrepreneurship in general, including how to interview candidates, when to take risks and how to look after yourself in the long term in a very stressful job.
Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht
Aliza Licht is a fashion PR expert and the woman who created the anonymous @DKNYPRGirl Twitter account, which had over half a million followers at the height of its fame. This book is especially good for learning how to create a personal brand, manage your social media, network to build useful connections and present like a polished professional. Whether your company is in deep tech, or in the consumer space, the founder’s image matters. Especially at the early stages, the company is the founder and vice versa. Women get judged on their image more than men, have more room for error and are allowed fewer mistakes. It is part of a founder’s professional responsibility to make a conscious choice for how they want to be seen, and this book offers some useful food for thought.
Mrs Moneypenny’s Advice for Ambition Women by Heather McGregor
Entrepreneur, Financial Times columnist, author and TV show host Heather McGregor seems to have endless energy. Her book is full of advice which is can be used by female founders or ambitious women in corporates alike. The book offers career and business advice, such as when qualifications matter and how to use them, but its strongest differentiators are chapters on financial literacy, on building a third (non-work) dimension into a career and on how to manage a life where you inevitably have to cram more into your time than a man. Since women usually have a higher proportion of responsibility in the home, looking after children or ageing parents, practical advice on how to manage this while pursuing a great career makes it stand out from a general career book.
Most problems that founders experience have been solved by somebody before. This makes the entrepreneurial journey easier and less lonely, because entrepreneurs can now turn to advice from those who have gone before them. While the female founder’s journey is undoubtedly harder, these books show it is not impossible.
April 3, 2019 at 10:47AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs