The Must-Read List: Empowering Books FOR Women, BY Women I Wish I’d Read in My 30s

Looking for an insightful read to fuel your career journey? Check out these five lesser-known, empowering books for women, by women.

A woman reading How Women Rise for breaking habits and success

When you think of possible business books to commit to for 2024, a few buzz-worthy titles probably come to mind. 

We all know the ones.

However, I’ve found there’s much to be said for lesser-known reads with an equally powerful message. 

These hidden gems offer insights into influence, self-advocacy, career progression, and leadership. I read all of these books later in my career and wish I would have discovered them sooner — especially since they are written specifically for the unique challenges women face in the work environment. 

Let’s get into it.

1. How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job

How Women RiseBy Sally Helgesen & Marshall Goldsmith

This book is a roadmap for working women, especially those navigating their 30s and 40s. It not only illuminates the path to professional advancement but it’s about overcoming ingrained habits that hinder progress.

Key Insights:

  • Master three core skills: meticulous attention to detail, effective teamwork, and robust networking.
  • Recognize the unique challenges women face in the workplace, distinct from their male counterparts.
  • The 12 habits holding women back:
    • Habit 1: Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements
    • Habit 2: Expecting Others to Spontaneously Notice and Reward Your Contributions
    • Habit 3: Overvaluing Expertise
    • Habit 4: Building Rather Than Leveraging Relationships
    • Habit 5: Failing to Enlist Allies from Day One
    • Habit 6: Putting Your Job Before Your Career
    • Habit 7: The Perfection Trap
    • Habit 8: The Disease to Please
    • Habit 9: Minimizing
    • Habit 10: Too Much
    • Habit 11: Ruminating
    • Habit 12: Letting Your Radar Distract You

2. 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy 

By Amy Morin

Amy Morin’s work is a manual for emotional and mental fortitude. It offers practical strategies for women to embrace their authenticity and find joy in their personal and professional lives.

Key Insights:

  • Building mental resilience is crucial in meeting work demands.
  • Mental muscle is just as important as physical muscle.
  • Don’t insist on perfection or compare yourself to others. Instead, focus on your goals and what you do have control over.

3. Lead to Win: How to Be a Powerful, Impactful, Influential Leader in Any Environment

By Carla A. HarrisLead to Win Book Carla Harris

Tailored for women seeking to enhance their leadership skills, “Lead to Win” is a blueprint for cultivating leadership that resonates across any professional landscape. I had the good fortune of hearing Carla speak about her pearls of intentional leadership at a Gartner conference and she literally gave me goosebumps. She is one of the best keynote speakers I’ve listened to. Here’s a video where she delivers a similar talk.

Key Insights:

  • Three skills are necessary for success: taking risks, creating a vision, and leveraging assets like relationships.
  • Eight things you must be intentional about every day: authenticity, building trust, creating other leaders, clarity, diversity, innovation, inclusivity, and voice.
  • We must each undergo our own personal journey from individual contributor to leader.

4. The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work

The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women's Dead-End Work book coverBy Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund & Laurie R. Weingart

This book was a personal favorite, highlighting the importance of saying ‘no’ more often (something that I’m always working on!). This book is a rallying call for women to assess their career trajectories, learn how to identify dead-end situations, and pave the way for meaningful professional journeys.

Key Insights:

  • We must address the disproportionate assignment of “non-promotable work” to women.
  • Understand how this imbalance hampers your career growth and corporate efficiency so that you feel more empowered to say “no.”
  • It’s time for organizations to reassess how they assign and reward work.

5. Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life

By Patty AzzarelloRise Book

Patty Azzarello’s book is a guide to achieving professional success without compromising personal fulfillment. It’s a reminder to balance ambition with life’s joys. Her message resonates deeply with me because it prompts me to prioritize overall satisfaction in my professional and personal life.

Key Insights:

  • Set ruthless priorities, work, and lead more strategically to address obstacles.
  • Build your credibility with the people who can help you.
  • Focus on building your network authentically, without resorting to politics.
  • Her book is organized by these practical steps:
    • Do Better — Have More Impact
    • Look Better — Be Visible, But Not Annoying
    • Connect Better — Get Support
    • Go — Make Your Work and Your Life, Work

As you embark on your own journey through the pages of these books, I hope you also find insights and guidance to navigate the challenges and triumphs of your career.

Happy reading!

Danielle Cullivan Signature

Danielle Cullivan

Career Insight Studio

Danielle Cullivan is a seasoned leader in tech with over 20 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies. She is also the creator of Career Insight Studio, a career and lifestyle blog dedicated to providing insights and new perspectives for working women. Danielle lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and high-school-aged son, and visits her college-age daughter as often as possible! 

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