The best leadership books are written by…?

You may have already noticed that relatively few books on leadership are written by women. And not just books for women but leadership books for everyone written by women.

I was searching Blinkist (a great app which provides bite-sized summaries in text or in audio of over 2000 non-fiction books and used by over 6 million users) for books on leadership. Because of my interest in women in leadership I was curious to see how many of the authors of the books in the ‘Management and Leadership’ category were written by women.

I discovered only 0.5% of books listed in the ‘Management and Leadership’ category had women listed as their first or only author! A small handful more had women listed as second or third author. Ugghh.

This is another way that our bias towards associating leadership with men is reinforced. Not only do we not see enough women in top leadership positions but the visible authorities on leadership that write and teach it also are overwhelmingly men. This does not mean that women don’t write leadership books or that women don’t have the authority to write on leadership.

What are some of the reasons then for why we don’t see more female authored leadership books included?

Women inadvertently undermine themselves…

… and not as many books are written as a result of how they are socialised. Because women have been socialised…

  • to be humble, not to stand out as an expert
  • to be communal in taking credit for their expertise
  • to wait until we feel 100% competent before writing or teaching or speaking
  • to wait to reach perfection in some way before writing or teaching or speaking
  • to be quiet and listen well so we speak out less
  • to wait to be invited and not ask
  • to not think strategically about their career and for example how writing a book may boost their career

Women are undermined by others…

… both intentionally and unintentionally, because unconscious bias influences…

  • who we view as leaders
  • who we view as authorities or credible
  • which books or authors get chosen to be published
  • what category or genre books get published under (I’m sure there are women-authored books on leadership that are not considered leadership books by the mere fact that the author is female)
  • which books get chosen to be read

What can you do?

Consciously notice and override your own unconscious bias and seek out, purchase and read leadership books written by women. Over time this can serve to disrupt that unconscious bias associating leadership with men and build new associations between leadership and women.

Promote and share books written by women. Comment when you don’t see them in lists.

Write your own book!


What are your favourite leadership books written by women?

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